Real, raw milk Reblochon used to be available all the time. When I knew little about cheese, I used to order it from my regular distributor with no idea that it might not be legal. I knew it was made from raw milk, but I just took folks word that it was 60 days old.
After 9/11 everything changed, even cheese importation. With much heavier scrutiny and the risk of thousands of pounds of cheese being held up – until unusable – because of one marginal seller, the choice was clear. No more real Reblochon. Though many distributors have attempted to sell pasteurized versions under an assortment of names, they just don’t match up. Too much butterfat, too little complexity.
When I was in France, one producer was super excited about his pasteurized version. We did a blind taste test with his pasteurized and raw milk cheeses and then he went around making us guess (whispering in his ear) which was which. This was not a super-advanced group of cheese folks on this tour. Still, every single person guessed correctly. The cheesemaker looked sad.
I had actually forgotten how good real Reblochon was until I tried this Grand Modele imported by Soyoung Scanlan of Andante Dairy. It’s “Grand Modele” because it’s made in a bigger format so that it can age long enough to be legally imported to the United States. Any Haute-Savoie cheesemaker could do this, of course. The trick is changing this centuries old recipe and still getting the texture similar to what you get in the standard (smaller) version. The Grand Modele is probably a little bit firmer — I was told this may vary –but otherwise almost identical.
Real Reblochon is one of the few cheeses I have a hard time describing in words. Its flavor, and the satisfaction of eating it, is bigger than the sum of its parts. It’s earthy, buttery, and grassy but it’s more complex than almost any other cheese I would describe with those words. There’s a milky sweetness, but it’s subtle. It’s got the intensity of a stronger, washed-rind cheese, but it never nears pungency.
I hesitated writing about this cheese because it is so good I don’t want to risk not being able to get enough if demand picks up. But it’s also too good not to share.
Reblochon, welcome back! I didn’t realize how much I missed you until I tasted you again.