Orval is a semi-firm cheese made from pasteurized whole cow’s milk.
It has an orange rind, and is a pale yellowish-white colour on the inside. It is slightly salty, but otherwise tastes somewhat like a mild Gouda. It is made in rectangular loaf-shaped blocks, each weighing about 2.1 kg (about 4 ½ pounds).
It is made at the Cistercian Abbey of Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval, in Villers-devant-Orval, close to Chiny, Belgium. The cheese-making arm of the monastery is called Fromagerie d’Orval. The cheese factory is quite automated. There are even conveyor belts delivering the cheese from one stage to the next.
Milk is delivered from farms in the region straight to the cheese factory, where it is pasteurized, then brought to a temperature of 33 C (92 F). Lactic acid and calf’s rennet is added to curdle it. The curd is cut and washed, drained, then put into perforated moulds to drain further. The cheese is pressed in the moulds, then turned out, put in baskets, and submerged in brine for several hours.
Orval cheese is then aged for three weeks.
The surface is dried before packaging, so that the packaging doesn’t stick to the cheese. It is wrapped in paper that has been waxed, which allows the cheese to breathe a bit.
Orval is classed as a Saint-Paulin type cheese.
The monastery also makes beer.
See also: Port du Salut Cheeses
Orval Cheese has a 30% fat content.
Use Orval cheese within 75 days of the wrapping date stamped on the label.
The Cistercian Abbey of Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval was established about 1124 (not counting an earlier false start in 1070 under the Benedictines.)
The cheese-making knowledge is recent. It was brought to the Abbey sometime around the late 1920s by monks that came from the Abbaye Notre Dame de Sept-Fons in Dompierre-sur-Besbre, in Auvergne, in France.