Mimolette is creamy, hard, cow’s milk cheese produced in Normandy, Brittany, Nord/Pas-de Calais, and other parts of France. It has been called a French Edam, although there are definite differences between the two. There is a little question as to its exact origin – some say it comes from Lille, in France, while others think it was first made in Holland. It is believed that Mimolette took route in the 17th century, specifically during rule of King Louis XIV, because his chief minister, Colbert, had banned the import of many foreign goods and foods, including Edam. The Dutch cheese was especially missed in Flanders, the northernmost region of France, and as you might expect, the villagers had strong cultural ties to Holland. Even today you will hear Dutch spoken as a first language in this part of France.
Often we want what we can’t easily have, and since Mimolette would have to be smuggled into France against the King’s decree, the defiant French subjects began to make their own cheese from the same basic recipe. Of course, the French added a little panache. The first changes you will notice are the shape and color. Instead of Edam’s ball shape, the artisans flattened the top and bottom, and then added Rocou, a natural coloring from red-Bordeaux grape seeds which originated in Vietnam. Today, the natural dye, annatto, is used to enhance the color, ranging from cantaloupe or carrot to a bright deep tangerine.
An important difference comes from the source of the milk. As you taste the cheese and compare it to Edam, you will see how diverse breeds of cows, and the grasses and herbs they feed on, alter the flavor. Intensely fruity and nutty, Mimolette is popular as a snack with a glass of beer.
The name mi-mou, means half soft, and refers to the firm but quite oily texture. The natural rind ranges in color from yellow orange to light brown and is pitted, dry and hard. Mimolette can be eaten young, but unlike Edam, Mimolette is usually matured for a minimum of six months, and at that time it is called demi-étuvée or demi-vielle – half old. The Mimolette you have received has matured for twelve months. As it ages the pâte becomes hard and crumbly, the taste becomes salty and nutty with sweet aftertaste, and the color changes to an antiqued orange-brown.
Making Charles de Gaulle’s Favorite Cheese
Aged Mimolette is very popular throughout France and is enjoyed by cheese novices as well as serious connoisseurs. Mimolette is also called Boule de Lille, because of the shape and the location of the cellars where the cheeses were first ripened the village of Lille. To make Mimolette, artisans brewed milk until it formed a consistent mass called a caillebotte. This mass was laid out in molds, and then pressed and turned over a few times so the cheese would take on a flattened form. Next the newborn cheeses were bathed in brine (salted water) for four or five days, and finally placed on boards to dry and begin the ripening process.
The young cheeses were stored in damp cellars and turned every week The Master Cavist made his first test at 8 and 12 weeks into the maturation process. Each cheese was brushed to remove cerons (microscopic cheese mites) which feast on the surface, and then struck with a wooden mallet to determine its density. The cerons play a very important role by creating tiny holes on the cheese surface to air the cheese, resulting in a pitted crust or rind. Today the process is much the same, but the milk is pasteurized and the cheeses are matured in cellars where the environment can be completely controlled.
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