Seasons of Cheese
Intro: Unfortunately, not every cheese can be enjoyed all year round. Certain cheeses come and go as the seasons change, depending on the effects the weather has on the soil that the animals graze on. For example, cows in many areas of the world will be able to feed on rich grass during the spring, thus producing the finest spring milk. It also depends on how well the animal can adapt to the change in the temperature. Some may handle the winters well, while others are kept in sheds until spring arrives. Although most cheeses can be enjoyed throughout the year, some should be reserved for specific moments. Read on to find out about seasonal cheeses:
Cheese through the Seasons
No two cheeses are alike. The breed of the goat, cow or sheep, the feed, the fat content o f the milk, the shape, method of drainage, curding, processes used. Dozens of different factors can influence the ultimate flavor and texture of the cheese.
Cheeses with a long affinage (aging) are good all throughout the year.
From April to May spring goat cheeses are made; the come summer and autumn cheese. Although this is true for artisanal chèvre, industrially produced goat cheese is made from hay-fed, shed-kept goats, which many people enjoy, but lack some of the intense flavor seasonal cheeses produce.
Late spring to early autumn
This is considered the best season for cheese production, because temperatures allow cows and goats to graze on flowers, herbs, and clover, so this period between April and November is when most cheeses are at their prime. Up in the mountains, where the climate is dry in the summers, and rich mountain flora grows in meadows, the animals produce a milk of excellent quality, with a high vitamin content, and natural, grassy flavors that are exceptional and make for very flavorful, almost fruity cheeses.
Best cheeses for this season: Banon (goat’s milk), Boulette, Cabecou, Crottin de Chavignol, Epoisses, Fontina, Livarot, Maroilles, Roquefort, Saint-Marcellin, and Saint-Pierre.
Late autumn to early spring
Many animals are not able to bear the cold hard winters, and must be sheltered until the season changes. They are fed a silage-based diet, which typically affects the taste and texture of the milk they produce, and thus the cheese itself. Two prized AOC cheeses, Pont L’EVeque and Camemberts are produced during the winter, since the milk-producing cows feed on maize diet. Usually, the cheeses in this time have a higher fat content, between 40-55%, and are a favorite during Christmas time all throughout Europe. People will swear by the winter milk Vacherin Mont D’Or from Haute-Savoie, incredibly runny and soft, with a woody aroma and excellent for fondues. Silage-fed cheeses tend to be of a paler yellow color, and slightly sweeter and hearty.
The following are some cheeses that are best made in these seasons: Banon (ewe’s milk), Beaufort, Brie, Brousse, Gerome, Saint-Florentin, Stilton, Vacherin Mont D’Or, Reblochon, handmade Chevres.
Cheese from the Mountains
In the mountains of Europe, the Alps and the Pyrenees, where most aritisanal cheese is made, the cheese-making season is divided into winter and summer. In summer, the herds graze the prairies and flower-filled fields of the high mountains, filling up in the fragrant grasses. The cheese is made on-site, as the cows are milked twice daily to take the most advantage of the precious liquid. As the first snows start to fall, the herds begin their descent, continuing the milking and cheese-making process as they go down. When they finally arrive, the winter fromage season begins, and the cows are kept in sheds. Winter cheese has a completely different flavor, but it highly sought-after for its complexity.