I broke down yesterday and bought some supermarket Gruyère. It did claim to be AOC and it did claim to be made in Switzerland, so I thought it might be ok, but not so great. The lack of rind should have been my first clue. What self-respecting cheese doesn’t have a rind? The flavour was just insipid and blah, and THAT”S what is wrong with cheese these days-we aren’t actually eating real cheese. We are eating pale and wan copies of these great living legends, and wondering why “we don’t like cheese.” Have you ever eaten an apple right off the tree? If so, you will know the difference between what an apple should really taste like, and what they usually taste like-it’s the same thing with cheese. It’s truly worth the effort to get the real thing, but what I can’t figure, is why there should be any effort involved in it at all. It’s a “no brainer” to this turophile.
Luckily, I do have a little slice of heaven waiting for me today. This cheese is Abondance AOC, and it’s a raw milk cow cheese from Savoie, France. I’m excited to try Abondance, as the Savoie is actually somewhat responsible for this whole crazy cheese journey of mine. My daughter returned from a 10 days school trip to the Savoie, full of tales of cheese and demanding that I track these cheeses down-thus, I feel an affinity for Abondance already.
Abondance is a cheese with some history-it has been made for at least 700 years in this region, and its name comes from a commune in the area (I tend to think this is not the same type of commune as in my hippie child days.) Another source says this cheese was made by monks from the Saint Marie d’Abondance Monastery, so I am a little unclear on this, unless these monks lived in a commune too. Who knows. The cheese is either artisinal or farm made and is made only from the milk of a certain breed of cow called-you guessed it-Abondance. Abondance is only aged for 90 days, so it’s relatively young compared to some of the other cheeses I have been sampling.
My tiny little slice of Abondance looks like a Gruyere-no big surprise as the Savoie is a stone’s throw away from Switzerland-it’s pale yellow with a brown rind. The smell is mild but quite footy and just a little rank (yay!).
First-the texture, it’s really elastic which is shocking in its rubbery-ness it will eventually melt-but that initial texture is quite tensile. The first taste for me is salt, yet also forest mushroom yum. actually, this cheese is freaking delicious, it’s very brown and round tasting with a little cow foot chaser. It’s not really a carnal cheese, but it does feel like it’s been up to something a little naughty-oh you commune monks of Saint Marie d’Abondance! I’m not even going to melt this, because I have just eaten it all this way and I want to eat more, curses.
Abondance AOC-you get a 4 out of 5 for fabulous flavour-this includes a one point deduction for salt and texture, which is almost overcome by delicious taste.