Photograph of Vieux Lille
Vieux Lille
Map of France showing the location of Flanders

Firm and sticky texture, extremely strong flavour and pungent aroma.

Made using cows' milk Made using unpasteurised milk

If you asked us which is the strongest cheese in the shop, Vieux Lille would be a good contender for the super-heavyweight crown. With a pungent odour and strong salty flavour, this cheese is certainly not for the faint-hearted. The alternate names of 'Puant de Lille' and 'Puant Macéré' are a little more descriptive, the latter being literally translated as 'stinking pickle'.

Vieux Lille is actually a type of Maroilles, a very well known cheese with a history going back to the Middle Ages when French cheese-making became the domain of the Monasteries. Maroilles is washed with brine for three months to make Vieux Lille.

In the past, strong mature cheeses were thought to be the domain of the poor and the workers, especially the northern miners who enjoyed Vieux Lille while down the pit. This interestingly contrasts with the Welsh miners, who preferred the fresher young cheeses like Caerphilly to the traditional mature Cheddars. Nowadays in France the stronger cheeses are more popular than ever, with local sayings such as "The more it stinks the better it is".

Made in Flanders, our Vieux Lille comes from unpasteurised cow's milk with a fat content of 45%. It is a square block measuring 13cm by 13cm and 5-6cm high and weighing 800g. It is made all year round. The brining process eliminates any rind, and the paste has a moist surface which is slightly grey in colour. Although the cheese holds together when cut, the consistency is best described as semi-soft.

This cheese is best enjoyed at the end of a cheese board or on its own. The locals eat it with strong beer or black coffee.

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