Vacherin d’Abondance is a very soft, creamy cheese with a pinkish crust and an almost sweet taste.
The cheese is so soft that a wood hoop is required to hold its form together. The cheese can be spread, or eaten from the casing with a spoon.
Vacherin d’Abondance is made in France, in the village of Abondance, in the Abondance valley close to the Swiss border.
It is made in the winter from raw milk from the breed of cows known as Abondance.
Rennet is added to milk fresh from the cows; the milk is not heated at all, but allowed to sit and coagulate for 90 minutes. Then the curd is ladled into a 25 cm (10 inch) wide round mould lined with linen.
The cheese is let stand for a day to drain, then turned out of the mould. The cheese’s circumference is then encased with a strip of bleached, sanitized spruce.
The cheese is next moved into a cellar and put on wooden shelves to age for 20 days, during which time it is turned and washed every day.
Vacherin d’Abondance can be warmed and poured over boiled potatoes, or heated and used as a fondue dip, but typically it is eaten as is.
Vacherin d’Abondance has been made since the early 1800s. A main producer of it in the second half of the 1900s was the Gagneux family. The last person in the Gagneux family to make it was Célina Gagneux, who stopped making it in 2005 at the age of 73.
In 1992, new EU hygiene directives decreed that production of cheeses had to happen in a “proper” dairy. When directives came into force in 1995 the small producers said the new requirements would put them out of business. A clarification of the directive, however, showed that traditional, raw-milk cheeses made by small producers were in fact exempt.
Literature & Lore
Mme Gagneux said: “When I was a girl, there were 30 people or more who made Vacherin in this valley. Now they’ve all died or stopped. They make the Abondance cheese, a firmer cheese, because that’s what the big buyers want. How can you blame them? Abondance is also a very fine cheese. But our Vacherin was wonderful, with a style and taste of its own. Now, perhaps, there will never be another one made. It’s a pity, but there it is.” Lichfield, John. The death of a cheesy tradition. London: The Independent. 1 August 2005.
“Mrs Gagneux, who was taught to make Vacherin d’Abondance by her mother-in-law 50 years ago, is resigned to taking its secrets to her grave. ‘My daughters don’t want to do this because the work is too hard. After me there won’t be any more.'” Willsher, Kim. EU hygiene regulations threaten traditional French cheeses. London: Daily Telegraph. 10 July 2005.
European Commission. Lack of maturity in cheesy yarn. Press watch division. November 2005. Retrieved April 2006 from http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/press/press_watch/latest_en.htm.