Monday, January 15, 2007

The Fabrication

Les Moussieres: Large scale production

The fromager wakes early in the morning to start making cheese from the milk that was delivered that morning and the night before. AOC cheeses from this region are made in co-ops (fruitieres) zhere the farmers bring and sell their morning and evening milk. Upon delivery, the milk is weighed and the farmer paid accordingly.

Our first stop that morning was at the fruitiere of Les Moussieres, one of the only cheesemaking facilities permitted to make three AOC cheeses--Comté, Morbier, and Bleu de Gex. Typically the rule is one AOC cheese per fruitiere. Why? I don't know and neither does anyone else. Though I would venture to guess that fruitieres typically don't have the space and equipment necessary to make three AOC cheeses.

I arrived late to my tour with an elementary schoold field trip group, as I never made it to any destination without turning around at least once. Hey, it's a great way to see the land! I did make it in time to see the placing of curds into their molds for Bleu de Gex. This AOC, cow's milk cheese is made in two fruitieres, this one in Les Moussieres and one in Gex.

After placing the curds in the molds, which further need draining, the fromger puts a plastic stamp "Gex"in the mold, along with the date of fabrication. When the cheese is ready for distribution, you'll see the "Gex" imprinted on the wheel. The placement of the stamp is key for indicating where the cheese was made. At Les Moussieres, the stamp is on the bottom with the date on the side. Cheese from Gex has the stamp on the side and the date on the bottom. Seemingly trivial, but indicative of the importance of tradition and quality assurance in France.

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