Neuf-Chatel - Heart Shaped Soft White 10th Century Cheese
Regular price £8.75
Neufchâtel is a soft, slightly crumbly, mold-ripened cheese made in the Neufchâtel-en-Bray, French region of Normandy. One of the oldest kinds of cheese in France, its production is believed to date back to the 6th century.
Contrary to popular belief, heart-shaped cheeses are not a recent invention for the Valentine’s Day bandwagon, but originated over 500 years ago. Neufchatel, a soft, white, moulded cheese, has always remained less well known than its more popular cousins, yet its origins can be traced back to the 10th century.
Sandwiched between the industrial towns of Dieppe, Le Havre and Rouen, the sleepy town of Neufchatel (in the Haute Normandy region, Pays de Bray) is where this cheese comes from. It wasn’t originally heart shaped, however, and although the heart-shaped design wasn’t invented for St. Valentine’s Day, it did come about through love…During the Hundred Years’ War (1337 – 1453), the French dairymaids of Neufchatel naturally fell for their English occupiers.
Consequently they started to mould the cheese into a heart shape to give as gifts. Ever since then the cheese of Neufchatel has become known for its characteristic heart shape, its bloomy white rind, and its velvety creamy interior, although it can still be found in other shapes.
Neufchatel has a velvety rich crust off set by a tart lactic interior.
For those interested in the technical details of traditional Neufchatel-en-Bray: it is a very slow acidifying and draining curd (circa 24 hours lactic acidification, longer in the cooler winter) with minimum addition of rennet. Tradition suggests you must add one of the previous day’s cheeses back into today’s curd (a practice that now rarely happens, but would have been done to propagate the correct mould and bacteria). After pre-draining, it is moulded into its various shapes and is salted and left to dry. It is then moved to the ageing rooms, which are kept at about 12 degrees Celsius and the correct humidity to allow the Penicillium candidum/camemberti (white mould) to grow.