Raclette is a mild cheese with a taste similar to that of gruyère. There are French and Swiss versions.
Raclette is also used as the name of a meal based on the cheese. See Raclette (Meal.)
The cheese is semi-soft, and off-white in colour, with minute air bubble holes in it. It is “designed” to melt well.
It is a washed-rind cheese whose light-brown, slightly-sticky rind is inedible.
Most Raclette Cheeses are made from unpasteurized cow’s milk.
Heating Raclette makes its flavour come alive.
Swiss Raclette Cheese
The Swiss version is made in the Swiss canton of Valais. It is called “raclette valaisanne” or “Valais Raclette” in English to make sure no unsuspecting Swiss person gets saddled with the French version instead.
It is made from whole, unpasteurized cow’s milk that is no more than 18 hours old. The milk is heated to around 90 F (32 to 33 C), then rennet is added to curdle it. The curd is cut, placed in moulds, and let rest there for at least 6 hours, being turned at least twice to help drain. The cheeses are then aged on red pine wood shelves for at least 3 to 4 months. The rind is washed during that time.
Raclette valaisanne cheeses will be 11 1/2 to 12 1/4 inches (29 à 31 cm) wide, about 2 1/2 inches (6-7cm) thick, and weigh about 10 1/2 to 11 1/2 pounds (4.8 to 5.2 kg.) They have a brownish-orange rind.
Raclette Cheese was granted Swiss AOC status on 3 November 2003.
French Raclette Cheese
A French version of Raclette Cheese is made in the areas of France known as Pays de Loire, Poitou-Charentes, Franche-Comté et Rhône-Alpes. It has a very similar taste to Swiss Raclette, but is a tad softer in texture.
An average wheel size for the cheese is 8 inches (20 cm) wide by 1 1/4 inches (3 cm) thick, but there are larger ones as well.
Like the Swiss version, it is made from unpasteurised cow’s milk. Occasionally, it is made with peppercorns in it.
It is aged at least 2 months.
The cheese was defined by a decree passed by the French government on 20 June 1984, as being made from pressed, uncooked cow’s milk curd, having a 45% fat content, and being aged at least 8 weeks. In 1991, a “Label Rouge” (“Red Label”) was created for it. French Raclettes carrying the Red Label have been aged a minimum of 10 weeks.
A French AOC application for the cheese was rejected in November 2003. Proponents wanted to restrict production to the Valais region, but this was opposed by established producers outside the area.
Brand names include “Les Monts de Joux” and “Riches Monts.”
“Raclette” comes from the French verb “racler”, meaning “to scrape.”