Definition of raclette cheese
Raclette cheese is a cheese made from raw cow's milk, with an uncooked pressed paste, originating from the canton of Valais in Switzerland. This cheese is notably used to prepare the famous raclette from Valais, Switzerland. Today, raclette cheeses made from raw or pasteurized milk are made in many regions of Switzerland, France (notably Auvergne, Savoie, Franche-Comté and Brittany), Quebec and Australia.
History of raclette cheese
Raclette cheese has a long history. Indeed, this cheese is mentioned in documents dating from the Middle Ages. At the time, it was used as currency, but also to feed soldiers during long mountain battles. Raclette cheese then became a Swiss culinary specialty, before becoming popular in other countries, particularly France.
AOP Raclette from Valais
Valais raclette cheese received protected designation of origin (AOP) in 2003, limiting its production to the canton of Valais in Switzerland. Precise specifications have been set for its manufacture, in particular using raw milk. The terms "Raclette du Valais", "à la coupe" and "à rebibes" are protected, but the protection of the term "raclette" was removed in 2007, on the grounds that "raclette" designates a culinary preparation and not a cheese.
Making raclette cheese
Making raclette cheese is a complex process that requires great attention to detail. First, the milk is collected from farms located in the mountains. The raw milk is then heated in a large copper cauldron, before being coagulated using natural rennet. The curd is then cut into small pieces using a curd slicer. The pieces of curd are then gently heated and then pressed into molds to give them their characteristic shape.
Once moulded, the cheese is salted and left to dry in maturing cellars for 3 to 6 months. During this period, the cheese is regularly turned and brushed to remove mold. The ripening process is crucial for developing the flavors of raclette cheese, which vary according to the ripening techniques used.
Raclette cheese tasting
Tasting raclette cheese is an experience in its own right. The rich and complex flavors of this cheese are brought out when it is melted and served with accompaniments such as potatoes, pickles, onions, Valais dried meat and of course, white wine.
To taste raclette cheese, it must first be melted. Traditionally, this is done using a raclette device specially designed for this, but it is also possible to melt it over a wood fire. As the cheese begins to melt, it is scraped onto the plate, creating an incredibly delicious flavor combination.
Raclette cheese is known for its creamy texture and subtle nutty taste. It is easily recognizable thanks to its pale yellow color and its natural rind which can be smooth or slightly rough depending on its aging. Its flavor is influenced by many factors, including the season of production, the altitude at which the cows have grazed and the time of curing.
When accompanied by cooked potatoes, raclette cheese goes perfectly with a dry white wine such as a Fendant, an emblematic wine from Valais, Switzerland. The white wine helps balance out the rich, oily flavors of the cheese, while complementing the fruity, slightly acidic notes found in most raclette cheeses.