Here’s something you probably already know: the internet is full of creepers! As the administrator of this blog I am privy to the search terms used to find this blog on any given day. Yesterday someone-or let’s hope something used a pretty heinous and personal search term to locate this one. Hence, my profile picture is changed to a cheese for privacy reasons. So, to you super creepy internet asshole–really? I hope you aren’t getting that worked up over a little bit of cheese. That’s just sad.
Perhaps then, it is excellent timing that today’s cheese is actually made by monks, and Benedictine monks at that. The very presence of a truly monastic cheese will drive the negative vibes away~~~~~ Here’s a little confession. I have a cheese-monk-fantasy thing which has yet to be satisfied in my 88 days of cheese. I know that sounds a little twisted, but let me explain myself. There is a clearly established historic connection between monasteries and great cheeses. Why this is, I’m not sure. Maybe monks had lots of milk, time and damp cellars on their hands. Regardless, many of the great cheeses were initially created by monks, and then later adapted by others. Most of these cheeses are no longer made by the monks. Time after time I have been foiled in my endeavour to sample real live monk cheese, but that all comes to an end today with Mont St. Benoit, made at L’Abbeye St. Benoit!
Mont St. Benoit is the real deal, made by real Benedictine monks, at a real monastery. This is, in fact, the only cheese dairy in North America run by Benedictine monks, so I have hit the jackpot. The Abbey of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, founded in 1912, numbers a little more than fifty monks living in the municipality of Saint Benoit du lac just East of Montreal. Separated from the world, their worship includes manual as well as intellectual work. They form a community under the direction of an Abbot.
Benedictine life virtually disappeared in France at the Revolution. In 1901 anticlerical laws in France drove all the Benedictine monks into exile, thus this was initially a community of French exiles, which may explain the cheese. According to their website URL http://www.st-benoit-du-lac.com/chooser2/chooser2.html Benedict said that to be a true monk one must “live by the work of one’s hands.” This work helps to provide for the needs of the monastery, and at this monastery they needed cheese. I kind of adore the thought of a group of Benedictine monks having their own website, it’s a fantastic juxtaposition between the old and the new, really go and check it out. They sell 10 cheeses called “fromages de l’Abbae” including my Mont St. Benoit.
Alas, that’s about all the info I could find on Mont St. Benoit, it’s almost like someone has taken a vow of silence! The website does state that the cheeses are all made by the monks, and that they have been making cheese here since 1943. It doesn’t state where the milk comes from, or if it is organic, but these things are usually stated if they are the case. It’s probably safe to assume it’s not organic and the milk comes from somewhere other than the abbey-which may explain why this is a pasteurized cheese, not raw. The only other public statement regarding this cheese, is that it is made from cow’s milk and is “Swiss Style,” whatever that means. I find that a baffling phrase, as Swiss cheese varies about as much as any other cheese.
My slice of Godly, yet mysterious Mont. St. Benoit cheese is a soft-looking yellow cheese with large eyes-or holes-throughout the cheese body. As mentioned previously, this occurs by naturally forming gasses caused by bacteria when the cheese is being produced. My sample is a small one, so there’s just one big eye winking at me. There is no discernible rind, and the smell is soft and pleasing to the nose, it’s a mild cheese.
mmmm, a toothsome little snack. The taste is extremely dialled back, it’s quite mild and lacks any bite or saltiness: it’s a safe cheese. Mont St. Benoit is totally understated in flavour. However, the texture is really groovy. It’s got a perfect chew to it, it’s soft, chewy, yet yielding at the same time, you just want to bathe your teeth in its chewy goodness. I bet this one would be great melted. I personally like a cheese that bites a little more in terms of flavour, but the texture on this one is so perfect, I will be a repeat offender. Hallelujah!