Mimolette – one of the 1000 French cheeses

Recently a French cheese called Mimolette was in the news due to US Food and Drugs Administration decision (on May 16, 2013) to forbid its import, declaring it “filthy” and unsuitable for consumption.

Mimolette cheese
Mimolette cheese

Mimolette is one of the more than 1000 varieties of cheese produced in France. No other country in the world produces such a large assortment of cheeses and French regard their country as THE country of cheese, with Netherlands being “THE OTHER” country of cheese.
There are at least two famous quotes that French bring on when taking about the cheese variety of their country: in 1962 the then president Charles de Gaulle exclaimed: “How do you want to govern a country where there are more than 300 types of cheese? ” (“Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays où il existe plus de 300 sortes de fromages ?”) and in 1940 during the German occupation of France it was Winston Churchill who said “Any country with 300 cheeses cannot die”.
French Cheeses
French Cheeses

Returning to Mimolette it is a cheese traditionally produced in the North of France around the city of Lille.
This cheese that has the consistency of the more known Dutch Edam cheese was first made at the request of King Louis XIV who in his effort to encourage native French goods wanted something similar but locally produced.
Mimolette was/is made from raw unpasteurized cow milk.
What triggered the reaction of FDA was the presence of flour mites added to the surface of the cheese. The role of these mites is to dig microscopic tunnels through the crust of the cheese allowing it to breathe and bringing about its sharp characteristic flavor.
And talking about cheeses the second most consumed cheese in France (after the Cantal) but arguably the most famous – along maybe with the Camembert – is the Rocquefort.
French Blue Cheese
French Blue Cheese

Produced in… Rocquefort in Aveyron region of the south west of France, the Roquefort is a blue cheese made from raw sheep milk.
There is of course the famous legend of how a local shepherd would leave his bread near a piece of cheese to follow a young lady… When he returned a few days later he found his bread moldy but also the cheese covered with a blue blanket. He tasted the cheese and found good!
Or the legend of Charlemagne who tasted the cheese at the house of the Bishop of Albi. He liked it so much he ordered two mule loads of it.
In short to obtain the cheese, sheep milk – no older than 48 hours – is heated at a temperature varying between 28C and 34C (82F to 93F) and then inoculated with spores of special fungus: Penicillium roqueforti (each cave preserves its own strain of penicillium). The fungus gives the cheese its blue spots appearance. The cheese is then refined in natural rock caves which have large naturally carved chimneys.
In artisanal production the fungus is obtained from keeping heaps of rye and wheat bread slices interposed for 6 weeks.
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