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  • The Chopping Blog

A Legendary Cheese to Warm up your Winter

Posted by Max on Dec 20, 2022


It can hardly be denied at this point that winter is upon us. Where I live in upstate New York, we have just gotten our first winter storm warning (make sure you have plenty of flashlights, apparently), and the quaint (some might say slightly creepy) little tiny house community in which we live looks like its spent the night in a snow globe.

image 1Unlike some folks, however, when winters chill finally settles in I don’t despair, no. For I know the secret to enjoying this bleakest of seasons. It's not finding a fun way to exercise (ugh), or a new way to play in the snow. Nay, the best way to enjoy winter is to indulge in rich food that would be intolerable during the warmer months (though judging by how often my wife requests Tonkatsu Ramen in July and August, this may not be a universal preference).

There are lots of examples of this sort of thing. Winter is unequivocally the best time to enjoy braised meats. Similarly dishes like mashed potatoes, foie gras (hot preparations at least), and of course hot chocolate are all at their best when you have to brave freezer temps to get to them. But probably my favorite winter indulgence is cheese. You want to know the best way to enjoy the long darkness? Eat cheese, folks. It’s just that simple (winter is also a great season to purchase a bulk pack of lactaid for those poor afflicted among us).

Now for the most part any cheese will do when it comes to lifting morale in the winter months, but there’s a particular one I’d like to share with you today. That cheese is Vacherin Mont d’Or.

Title imageThis is a seasonally made cheese in Switzerland and France. There is a slightly complicated history regarding its origin, but the main difference is that the Swiss version is made with theorized milk (not exactly pasteurized, but definitely not raw milk), and the French version is made with raw milk. Due to its relatively short aging period, we cannot access the true French version of the cheese legally in the U.S. (so much for “land of the free”). Thus, the Vacherin Mont d’Or that I was able to procure (by way of the wonderful raclettecorner.com) was the theorized version from Switzerland. These are smaller wheels aged for a time in the cambium of spruce trees, and are available only in the winter months and is made from the milk of the same cows that produce Gruyere cheese, just when their diet consists of stored hay and not pasture. This makes it exquisitely rich, and best suited to a softer, younger cheese.

This cheese is, shall we say, quite aromatic. I was consistently confronted with the insistence that “I think something’s rotten in the fridge” by my wife every time she opened the door. Honestly, she would comment on the fragrance even when I opened the fridge door, and she was in the other room. However despite its trademark scent the flavor when you get to actually eat it is more than worth it. There’s a hint of barnyard funk, but more than that there is richness, deep complexity and a deeply satisfying creaminess that is easy to dip into, but still clings readily to whatever you’ve dipped.

But enough extolling the virtues of this cheese; let's get into how to enjoy it. Many people are used to soft rind cheeses that are eaten rind and all like brie, but this is not one of those. Of course, you could eat it that way if you’re really into the taste of ammonia. For the rest of us this cheese is best enjoyed by baking it, or letting it temper at room temp for a few hours, then removing the top rind and dipping bread, or other various goodies into it. But traditionally there are a few steps to take to ratchet up the enjoyment, so let’s take a look.

This is what my Vacherin looked like in its packaging:

image 2And after removing it from its packaging:

image 3I preheated the oven to 375ºF and wrapped the cheese in aluminum foil, leaving the top exposed.

image 4I then sliced a clove of garlic into ten thin slices, and cut ten slits into the top of the cheese.

 image 5

I slid the sliced garlic into the slits.

image 6Then poured about 1/4 cup of white wine directly over the top of the cheese.

 image 7

I then popped the cheese (on a sheet tray) into the oven and baked it for about 20 minutes until the cheese was nice and lose, and just a little bit bubbly on top.

image 8I then used a small knife to remove the top.

image 9At this point, you are ready to go. All you really need to enjoy this is some great bread to dip into it. However if you want to make a meal of it, as I did, you can follow my lead and boil up some fingerling potatoes, add a protein like a bit of strip steak or some ham, some condiments like cornichon and membrillo, and pair it with a lovely white wine (ideally the one you poured on top earlier). In my case a lovely vignoles from a local winery called Anthony Road.

image 10From here, it's pure bliss. Just enjoy and relax knowing the winter months were meant for hibernation and fat accrual. And if this post has you craving a meal of gooey cheesy goodness why not check out our upcoming Virtual Fondue Party.on Friday, December 30 at 6pm CST.  Together, we'll make:

  • Gruyere Cheese Fondue with Roasted Potatoes, Veggies, Sausage and Bread
  • Chocolate Fondue with Marshmallows and Fruit 
  • Romaine Salad with Apples, Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Register now

Topics: cheese, wine & cheese, cheese plate, vacherin

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