The Morbier cheese: Introduction
It is not known exactly when the Morbier cheese was first produced, just that the producers of Comté used to reserve it for their personal consumption. It was in effect ‘leftovers’ made with the rest of the milk left in the vat which was not able to be put in the cloth, which was left overnight until the fresh milk was produced the next morning. To stop the Morbier cheese from being contaminated by insects, the cheese-makers coated the surface with ash that they scraped from the surface cooking pot (the wood which heated the cooking pot emitted a resin when burnt which acted as insecticide). The next day, the ‘half-cheese’ was topped up with the fresh milk.
The Morbier cheese is more than two centuries old. The oldest written documentation of the cheese comes from:
- 1795: The Mayor of Morbier, in a letter, speaks about the fabrication of ‘fatty cheeses’ of 8 to 10kg called “Petit Morbier.”
- 1799: “At La Chapelle-des-Bois at Mount Risoux; the cheeses are made in the same way as the gruyeres cheeses, but the result is more fatty, has fewer holes than the gruyere and is lined with blue veins…”
It is thought that for more than 250 years, on the farms and co-operative cheese dairies of the areas of the Doubs and Jura, the Morbier cheese, with its characteristic line of ash, has been made according to the rule book? Nowadays, the line of ash is just for decoration and to represent the tradition.
The name of the cheese comes from the area where it was first commercialised, from Jura, Morbier. This commune is at an altitude of 800m where the highest point is 1,200m.
The Morbier cheese is in the shape of a disc with a flat heel. It has a diameter of 35 to 40cm, a thickness of between 7 and 9cm and a weight of between 6 and 8kg. The maturing process lasts for two to three months in a cool, humid cheese cellar.