When the first snows fall in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France, the dairies begin to make Vacherin Mont d’Or. We think of it as the Christmas cheese, soft, with a wrinkly rind, and enveloped in a strip of spruce. Its seasonal character goes back to when it was impossible to move milk out of this mountainous area once the bad weather set in. The milk was instead transformed into this simple, fresh, oozy cheese, one that would be at its best in winter.
To earn the name Vacherin Mont d’Or, the cheese must be made with milk from Montbéliarde cows. Never heard of them? These are – to my mind – the world’s “supercow”. They are extremely hardy, their strong legs and feet enabling them to live outside barns in what can be a challenging landscape. They produce the high-protein milk essential for making a high-value cheese, and they are also good beef cows.