Love is in the air this February and even in our choice for Cheese of the Month.
Neufchâtel AOC is an unpasteurised cow's milk cheese produced in the Haute-Normandie region of France. This soft lactic cheese is well known for its pretty heart shape but can also be found as a small cylinder or brick.
Encased in an edible white rind that is dry and velvety with a mushroomy aroma, the paste of Neufchâtel cheese is firm and supple. Similar to Camembert, Neufchâtel has a slightly grainier texture and a saltier, sharper flavour.
In true French style, Neufchâtel tastes great with a crusty baguette and strong red wine, a Cabernet-Franc such as Bourgueil or a Cahors.
- Unpastueurised cow's milk
- Animal rennet
What is special about Neufchâtel AOC?
Neufchâtel cheese takes its name from the village of Neufchâtel-en-Bray where it is produced. It is believed to be one of the oldest cheeses in France. Its characteristic heart shape originated during the Hundred Years War between France and England (1337-1543). Milkmaids from Neufchâtel started to make heart-shaped cheeses as love tokens to give the invading English soldiers.
Neufchâtel cheese was designated an AOC (Appellation D'Origine Controlee) product in 1969 and obtained the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) label in 1996.
Production involves slow lactic acidification and minimum addition of rennet. The curd is put into cloth bags and drained for 12 to 24 hours before being mixed with salt and moulded into one of six authorised shapes: bonde, double bonde, square, briquette, heart (coeur) and big heart.
In maturing rooms Neufchâtel is ripened at 12 degrees centigrade in the correct humidity to promote the growth of Penicillin Candidum to form its flavoursome rind.
It can be eaten after two weeks and whilst young pairs well with a white wine or glass of cider. However, it is more typically matured for up to 8-10 weeks allowing the cheese to develop a more mature and stronger taste, better matched by a more powerful red wine. It is ideal in a cheese sauce (sometimes you will find it included in a fondue recipe) and also enhances tarts and desserts.