Sunday, December 4, 2011

Vacherin, The Peignoir Cheese

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.”

Vacherin Fondue

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.


  1. Oh you always describe all these cheeses so the water starts running in my mouth! I'm totally drooling here and I haven't even had my breakfast yet ;) Thanks for your always interesting finds and opinions.

  2. Hello.
    As a fellow Vacherin amateur I could not let you get away with this small factual error: Vacherin is a word derived from 'vache' (cow), Mont D'or means Golden Mountain.
    Love the Vacherin fondue, it's coming to my dining table pretty soon.
    Keep up the good work.
    Twitter @Gil_lash

  3. I was just writing about Vacherin last night... It makes me happy.

  4. I think I may have to try this with some Rush Creek. Thanks for the heads up, Madame

  5. Mmmmmm I am drooling so hard right now! Must find this Vacherin. I love the ideas of small potatoes too :-)

  6. Vacherin is amazing. We had avery late season and very ripe round at the start of this year and it was almost too strong (which I thought was impossible for me). I wish we could get Rush Creek in London though, as I would love to try it.

  7. I get the sense that you had a very good time writing this. I had an equally enjoyable time reading your playful description of this cheese!

  8. My mouth is watering as I read this! It's definitely on my list to order next. Sigh...a love affair with liquid silk cheese.


  9. Vacherine can stir your soul. This is the cheese that took me from cheese fan to cheese fanatic.

  10. I've had Mont d'Or, and I must say, yours is the most beautiful description of it I've ever read. Lovely.