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Floral with notes of cellar: French cheesemaker unintentionally creates entirely new flavour in lockdown

作者:admin 2020-06-13

French cheesemaker Lionel Vaxelaire has captured the flavour and aroma of lockdown — floral with notes of cellar. Unable to sell a batch of roughly 60 wheels of Munster cheese, he stashed them in the darkest corners of his vault, and “even forgot about them a little.” Through neglect, The Local reports, Vaxelaire inadvertently created a new type of cheese.

Dubbed Le Confiné — a play on the French word for lockdown (confinement) — the product of isolation is “chalky inside, with a flowery, greyish and spotted rind.” Somewhere between Munster and Camembert, Vaxelaire told Le Parisien, the cheese “took all the flora from our whole raw milk and the flora from the cellar” to create an entirely new flavour profile.

Munster has a tacky, orange rind and a gamey aroma far more assertive than its flavour. The semisoft cheese has had AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) status since 1969, which protects its style, ingredients and origins. “Many have suffered the woes of a long car journey with a ripening, unfettered Munster in their trunks,” writes French master fromager Dominique Bouchait in Fromages. “With its pronounced, balanced aromas, a moment with a fine Munster is one of life’s true joys.”

Unlike Munster — which is hand-rubbed with a saltwater solution and turned every two days to encourage the growth of fungi and bacteria, including Brevibacterium linens — Le Confiné was left to age untouched for four weeks.

Vaxelaire, who keeps a herd of 25 cows in Saulxures-sur-Moselotte — a commune in the mountainous Vosges region in eastern France — saw sales drop by about 80 per cent as a result of lockdown. And he wasn’t alone in his plight. Last month, French producers warned that 5,000 tons of cheese could go to waste if action wasn’t taken. What began as a cellar full of unsellable Munster, ended up being a boon.

Since France eased lockdown, “the new kid is starting to make himself known” through farm gate and market sales, Vaxelaire said. The only downside to Le Confiné, he added, is that it sold out so quickly — but there are new batches maturing in his cellar.

Vosgian cattle Milk from Vosgian cattle is used to make Munster, which was the starting point for Le Confiné. Patrick Hertzog / AFP via Getty Images

The world of cheese was built on tales of such happy accidents. From the monk who is thought to have stumbled upon washed-rind cheeses like Munster and Époisses because he wanted to scrub them clean, to a smitten shepherd who is said to have hidden his lunch in a cave and unwittingly created Roquefort, fanciful notions abound.

While Munster dates back to the seventh century, when it was created in an Alsace monastery, Le Confiné is wholly new. Emblematic of a pandemic rather than the role of monks in creating some of France’s most remarkable cheeses, it makes for an origin story no less memorable than those that have come before it. And while Vaxelaire’s forgetfulness may be less romantic than that lovestruck shepherd in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, it’s an encouraging reminder that sometimes, with the help of beneficial microbes, the things you’ve given up on can surprise you.

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