I’ve wanted to try Vacherin Mont d’Or ever since I first read Patricia Michelson’s description of it in her book, The Cheese Room. She calls it a "melting sensation" and compares the texture to “the folds of a satin peignoir.” Read: nightie.
I was watching Mad Men at the time. I thought of Joan with her high, crimson hair and blousy bedroom attire. When I imagined the taste of Vacherin, I envisioned something voluptuous but repressed, delicate.
Oh, how wrong I was. Vacherin is a tiger. It may, in fact, be the ultimate Mad Men-era cheese because it comes in a box, like an engagement ring, and it’s cinched at the waist with a belt (made of bark). When you bake it, it turns to Jell-O pudding.
Vacherin is a seasonal cheese that hails from the mountain range between Switzerland and France. It’s ready in winter, and that’s because it’s only made with autumn milk when the cows come down from the Alps. The milk from these same cows -- in spring and summer -- is used to make Comté and Gruyere.
The name Vacherin literally means “Golden Mountain.”
Following Patricia Michelson’s instructions, I baked this cheese in its balsa wood box. At 350 degrees, it took thirty minutes.
It’s important to wrap the box in foil in case the melted cheese leaks out. After the center warmed, I peeled back the top rind, swirled 2 tablespoons of Sauvignon Blanc into the custardy softness, and served hot Vacherin with boiled potatoes, pickled onions, and cornichons.
Unforgettable. Imagine a forest melting in your mouth. A forest with nightgowns hanging like leaves from the branches. The taste is big -- mushrooms, sweet hay, night sweat -- and the texture is sumptuous. All you need is a salad with a vinegary dressing and a glass of Gewurztraminer.
Online, you can find Vacherin at Murray's and Artisanal. I purchased mine at the counter of Di Bruno Bros. If you're lucky enough to find Rush Creek, a raw-milk version of Vacherin made by Uplands Cheese in Wisconsin, you could try this same recipe.
This is a delightful supper for a winter Sunday. Change into your PJs as it bakes.