I have to make a confession. Today’s cheese leaves me a little nonplussed. It’s a hard cow’s milk cheese from Northern France and it’s called Mimolette. It is of interest for two reasons and neither is associated with its taste.
The first reason is cheese mites. I’ve already talked about cheese mites when I wrote about Le Thérondels. The mites give the cheese rind its distinctive granular, rough, sandy texture and allow the cheese to mature and develop its flavour.
The other reason is that it’s the French version of Edam. King Louis XIV decided, on the advice of his finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, that the way forward for the French economy was to export as much as possible and import as little as possible. France was pretty much bankrupt at the time and this strategy was aimed at balancing the budget. Colbert was also a big fan of taxes and micro-management.
Despite the apparent success of the idea, France remained nigh on bankrupt since the king decided to carry on spending money on handy things like wars.
Anyway, the restriction of imports meant that the people of France and particularly those of Northern France couldn’t get hold of Edam cheese from the Netherlands and they were big fans of Edam. So the King directed them to make a French equivalent, colouring it bright orange with annatto to differentiate it.
So the cheese then. It tends to matured for twelve to eighteen months and comes as large cannon ball shaped cheeses. It’s a hard cheese that tends to have a consistent paste with occasional small holes. It is very salty and is quite chewy. Imagine buying some cheap and horrible plastic cheddar from the supermarket, opening the packet and leaving it on the side for a week or two. That’s pretty much mimolette.
I recommend serving it after a night in the pub when you return home, keen for something fatty and salty. It would be good as a bar snack. It would be good grated on baked beans on toast. Serve with a pint of beer. There are other recipes for cooking with mimolette. These tend to involve melting it into soups although it might go well as cheese on toast. Unfortunately it’s quite expensive since it’s been matured for so long so it’s an extravagant boozy snack.
So then, mites and French fiscal policy of the 1600s. That’s what interesting about mimolette. Make of that what you will.