The cheese dairy is, above all, the place where the milk is collected with a view to transform it into cheese. The word in French ‘fromagerie’ is less specific and can mean the place where the cheese is made and also the specialised cheese shop.
The cheese dairy is perhaps best described by the French ‘fromagerie’ because it can in fact be a room, a workshop, a laboratory or a site where the milk is collected and transformed. The cheese dairy can be part of a farm or can serve as a place where a group of local farmers take their milk (a co-operative).
A cheese dairy is where the following stages take place:
Collection of the milk- maturing of the milk- curdling of the milk- moulding of the curds- draining of the curds- salting of the cheese- maturing of the cheese.
The cheese dairy has varies other names, depending on the region. A ‘fruitière’ (co-operative cheese dairy) is a place where the milk is collected and transformed into cheese in regions like Jura, Savoy, the Alps and Switzerland. This type of dairy is still in practice today. There is a ‘fruitière’ in Franche-Comté that dates back to 1273, and is thought to be the oldest in the world.
The origin of the word ‘fruitière’ is controversial. For some it comes from ‘fruit’, as it was the place where the farmers put the fruit of their labour. For others, it comes from the medieval ‘fretière’ from the same family of words as ‘fromage.’
In Switzerland, the cheese dairy created a type of co-operative workplace: the ‘village cheese dairy.’ Gruyere cheese is often made this way.