by Joe Chaput | So you’re the King of France. You’re powerful and you can do anything. What do you do then? Have a French version of a Dutch cheese made for you! At least that’s what King Louis XIV did (or so the story goes). He even had it coloured orange to make it distinct from Edam. He did not order it to be made in the likeness of the Death Star. I did that.
Now commonly known as Mimolette, it was originally called Boule de Lille. Lille is the Dutch-influenced town where it originated in Northern France (in the area of Flanders). This favourite of Charles de Gaulle is made from pasteurized cows milk and weighs in at around 3 kilos. It can be found in varying degrees of age. When young (3-6 months of age), it is very mild, in which case you may be more inclined to serve it for breakfast, or in a sandwich. With age it transforms into a dry, crumbly, wine-friendly cheese. You may find it aged in ranges of 6, 9, 12, 18 or even 24 months (vielle-cassant).
It’s easily recognized for its pitted crust, which is not far off from some sort of cratered moon. This is a result of cheese mites that are introduced during the aging process. The mites feed on the outside crust, and the holes they create allow for air flow and flavour development as the cheese ages. During the aging process, the crust is brushed and the resulting dust from the holes is brushed off. I don’t know anyone who eats the crust of Mimolette, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Due to recent import regulations into Canada, the Mimolette we receive of late has had its crust ground down, and the exterior covered in black wax. Same cheese, regulating officials satisfied.
The aromas are not overly strong, and the taste is not in your face. However, when you try a really old Mimolette – like one that is aged 24 months – you can see why it’s so popular. The texture is hard and crumbly, not unlike a very old Dutch Gouda. As cheesemongers, we have to put our weight into it sometimes to cut a proper slice. The taste is nutty with hints of buttery sweet caramel. The finish is a lengthy one. On the palate, the texture is a bit like fudge.
Mimolette can be enjoyed with red wines, sherry, port and even bubbly. In the kitchen, you can shave it into salads. Its bright orange color might be just the thing your dish was missing.
You can find the 24 month aged version at Les Amis du Fromage for $8.50/100 grams.
Joe Chaput is the Cheese Editor of Scout Magazine (because of course we have a Cheese Editor!), the co-proprietor and fromager of East Hastings’ Au Petit Chavignol, a member of the Guilde des Fromagers Confrerie du Saint-Uguzon and a Red Seal-certified cook. His by-weekly column – Beyond Cheddar – deals with all things stinky, oozy, sharp, soft, creamy and delicious.