is one of the mildest of the blue cheeses. It's paste is creamy and
firm and it has the smell of a damp cellar. It has a natural grey
dry rind with reddish spots.
Altitude, geology and soil content have
determined the agriculture of the Auvergne. On the high plateaux of the
Dôme, Gevaudan and Cantal, you find cattle and sheep. Vines are grown
on the limestone hills and valley slopes and grain is planted on the rich
black soil of the Limagnes plain. This region is home to a fervent Catholic
community and the festivals are predominantly religious. Since 1095AD
when Pope Urban began preaching, many crusades and pilgrimages have originated
in the Auvergne.
The Monts du Forez are on the eastern side
of the Auvergne and the cattle graze at altitudes of 500 to 1500 metres.
The summers are hot and the winters long and cold. The local town of Ambert
has become renowned for its distinctive blue cheese. Originally it was
made in the 'jasseries' or 'astives', the summer farmhouses on the plateaux.
Today manufacturing has moved to the small co-operatives of the Monts
du Livradois and the Forez plain but the same skills are used which have
been passed down from generation to generation.
The cheese is made with unpasteurised
cows milk, 25 litres of milk for each cheese. Penicillium glaucum bacteria,
a distant cousin of Penicillium roquefortii, is used to seed the curd
just after curdling. It is neither pressed nor cooked before moulding,
to preserve a fine, aerated texture. The word 'Fourme' is taken from the
Latin 'forma', meaning form or shape (it is believed that the word 'fromage'
has the same roots). The blue mould only appears after air has been introduced
into the cheese using hollow needles. Maturation takes a minimum of one
month but can take place for up to five months. During this time the cheeses
are regularly brushed.
Fourme d'Ambert is one of the mildest of
the blue cheeses. It's paste is creamy and firm and it has the smell of
a damp cellar. It has a natural grey dry rind with reddish spots. Fourme
d'Ambert was awarded its AOC status on 9th May '72 along with another
cheese called Fourme d'Montbrison It was modified again on 29th December
'86. Fourme d'Montbrison is almost identical to Fourme d'Ambert and is
made, as one would expect, around the town of Montbrison, also in the
The cheese is available all year round
and is best enjoyed with a medium-bodied red wine such as the local Côtes-du-Forez.
At large gatherings little chimneys are dug into the cheese which are
filled with eau-de-vie and enjoyed as some British enjoy their Stilton
Each cheese is shaped like a tall cylinder
with a height of approximately 20cm and a diameter of 13cm. Each weighs
1.8kg and has a fat content of 50%.