Did you know that cheese has four seasons?
I’m sure almost everybody knows fruits and vegetables follow season, but it is maybe less obvious when we talk about cheese. Thus, some of our favorite cheeses are sold only in winter and some others, though they are sold all year round are more enjoyable during certain seasons. Beaufort will be, for example, much better from late summer to late autumn.
That’s why, and it’s unfortunate, not every cheese can be enjoyed all year round. Don’t be too worry anyway, there is no doubt you will find beautiful cheeses to fix your need from January to December! Don’t forget there are about 1,600 distinct types of French cheese, enough to find your happiness anytime during the year…
Of course, don’t forget cheeses are something alive and we can easily say, no 2 cheeses are alike without saying anything about the season. Indeed, it’s always a matter of the breed of the goat, cow or sheep, the feed, the fat content of the milk, the shape, method of drainage, curding, processes used and of course affinage. Dozens of different factors can influence the ultimate flavour and texture of the cheese.
But then, how come the seasons influence the taste of the cheese?
The most important thing is the effect of the weather and the temperature on the soil and ultimately the grass that the animals graze on. Thus, the spring with the return of the sunny and the warm days will give a rich and flavourful grass and cows, sheep and goats eat this pasture. Their milk reflects that, giving cheese more complex & fine flavours and textures.
Don’t forget that, to experience this seasonality, you always should look for cheeses made by smaller and artisan producers who take care of how the livestock is fed. In other words, large-scale producers tend to use standardised and processed food for their animals which will give a standard and consistent taste to the milk all year round with no subtleties of each season.
Is there a best season for cheese?
Now you have a better understanding of why the cheese is eventually a season product, the question that comes to your mind is, when is the best season to eat cheese?
Again, you have many different types of cheeses produced in many different regions which let you enjoy your favourite treat all year round. Nevertheless, we can see differences in the taste depending on the period of the year you are. We can consider 2 main periods.
From April to November
Here we are! Specialists and connoisseurs consider those months as the best season for the cheese production. This is mainly because the change of temperatures. This change allows cows and goats to graze on flowers, herbs, and clover, which makes most cheeses are at their best. The animals produce a milk of excellent quality, with a high vitamin content, and natural, grassy flavours that are exceptional and make for very flavourful, almost fruity cheeses…
Some cheeses you should definitely try during this season : Roquefort , Chabichou, Crottin de Chavignol, Epoisses, Livarot, Maroilles and Saint-Marcellin.
From December to March
With the winter and its cold weather, animals must be sheltered until the spring comes. They are fed with dry grass harvested during the summer, which typically affects the taste and texture of the milk they produce, and eventually the cheese itself. In this time, the cheeses have a higher fat content, between 40-55%. They are one of the favorite delicacies during festive season all throughout Europe...
Usually, cheeses in winter tend to be of a paler yellow color, and slightly sweeter, buttery and hearty.
One of the most famous stars of this period is the delicious Mont d’Or, an incredibly runny and soft cheese which can be eaten hot after having being backed, served as a fondue, yummy….
The must tries in these seasons: Beaufort, Brie, Brousse, Stilton, Reblochon, Abondance and of course Mont d’Or !
Written by Jean-Babtiste Couty