by Ashley Linkletter | Whether we like it or not, the winter season is slowly creeping towards us. Most of us can find something to look forward to during the darkest months of the year, and for some of us it’s the arrival of Vacherin Mont-d’Or, a seasonally made raw cow’s milk cheese from France and Switzerland that is only available in Canada between the months of November and January, if we’re lucky. As soon as the weather turns colder this cheese becomes a much talked about commodity, and wheels are reserved ahead of time for extra eager turophiles. That being said, for those of you feeling the long wait, l’Edel de Cleron is a genuinely tasty substitute that’s available year round.
Made of pasteurized cow’s milk, l’Edel de Cleron is a soft bloomy rind cheese that is bound in a tight belt of dark spruce bark. The fact that l’Edel de Cleron is pasteurized makes it a boon for our cheese loving American neighbours and is marketed heavily as a copy of Vacherin, Vacherin Mont-d’Or is banned in the United States due to it’s raw milk status. l’Edel de Cleron is made in the eastern Franche-Comte region of France. The cheese is aged for 2 weeks and is then ready for sale as either small self-enclosed rounds or wedges from a larger wheel. Ideally, l’Edel de Cleron is eaten when spoon-soft or in a similar manner to Vacherin, which is to say top rind lopped off and baked with garlic and white wine.
l’Edel de Cleron has a pale straw coloured paste and dense, buttery interior that oozes when ripe. Like many soft cheeses, l’Edel is tart and slightly chalky when young but its flavour evolves beautifully as it ripens. When eaten at its peak, l’Edel has a taste like that of a gentle forest; lush earth, savoury mushroom, and a piney greenery that becomes more apparent the closer you get to the spruce bark. It has definite similarities to a coulommiers-style cheese, with an added intense streak of woodland grass and sunshine.
l’Edel de Cleron is a heavenly pairing for champagne or prosecco, its creaminess coating your tongue in conjunction with the bubbles from your glass is a combination that has to be experienced to be believed. Ideal for a party, l’Edel is different enough to be interesting but not enough to intimidate your guests. Serve at room temperature with a simple baguette and dried pears and cranberries; if soft enough remove the rind on top of the cheese and allow people to dollop the cheese onto their bread with a spoon. If you have any left, I highly recommend putting some in a toasted cheese sandwich with fruit chutney or peach jam; the combination of sweet and salty is sheer sensual pleasure!