Livarot is a soft, creamy cheese with a washed, yellow-orange rind. The rind can be eaten; most of the strong flavour is in the rind.
It is made around Livarot in the Auge valley, Normandy, France. Most production is industrial now, though as of 2006 reputedly at least one farmhouse producer remains -- though no one is quite certain who it is. One of the leading producers is the firm of Eugène Graindorge, started in 1910, in Livarot itself.
The cheese is sold bound on its sides by 5 bands of paper (the bands used to be greenish rush leaves.)
Livarot Cheese is made from unpasteurized cow's milk; in fact, by regulation, the milk must not be heated above 98.6 F (37 C.)
When the milk is heated, rennet is added to curdle it, and the curd is cut twice. The curd is then drained, and packed into moulds. The moulds are let stand in a warm room for 24 hours, during which they are turned several times. The cheese is then unmoulded, washed, and salted. The cheese is let ripen for 3 to 4 months, during which it is washed several times.
Some of the yellow-orange colouring on the rind crust comes from a bacteria called "Bacteria linens", but to reinforce the colour, the final wash is done with water coloured with annatto.
Each cheese is about 5 inches (12 cm) wide, 2 inches (5 cm) thick, and weighs about 8 oz (230 g.)
A half-one is sometimes called a "Petit-Lisieux."
If the Livarot Cheese is so ripe that it smells like ammonia, it is past it. Discard.
The cheese was definitely known by the name "Livarot" at the end of the 1800s.
Traditionally, the cheese was just 10 to 15% butterfat, but the butterfat content was raised in the mid-1900s. The paper binding (originally rush leaves) is now an anachronism; it was originally meant to reinforce the lower-fat cheese which has less body.
A producers' association of Livarot Cheese was formed in April 1970. The cheese received its French AOC 1975.