The Bleu de Sassenage cheese: Introduction
The Bleu de Sassenage cheese takes it name from the place where it was first produced. It is also known as Bleu du Vercors. The Bleu de Sassenage has been one of the best known blue cheeses since the end of the 16th Century. Olivier de Serres writes about the cheese in his "Théâtre d'Agriculture et Mesnage des Champs" (1600) where he specifies that the best are produced with a mix of cow's, ewe's and goat's milk. Diderot also mentions the cheese in l'Encyclopédie. Joseph Berchoux, a poet of the 19th Century, fond of good food and wine, in 1805, wrote some lines praising the cheese. The Bleu de Sassenage was ackowledged as a local product in accordance with a charter promulgated the on 28th June 1338 by the Baron Albert of Sassenage. This charter authorised the inhabitants of Villard-de-Lans to sell their cheese freely. It is thought that this cheese, like many others, was invented by the monks of an abbey situated not far from where it is still produced. It is certain that the Bleu de Sassenage is architypal of the blue cheeses of the Haut-Jura, which have the same shape and are blue veined cheeses. The Bleu de Sassenage cheese was acknowledged as appellation d'origine controlée (AOC) in 1998.
This cheese takes the shape of a thick disk with a convex heel and weighs 3.5 to 6 kilograms. It is matured for 2 months in a fresh, humid cheese cellar.
Exterior appearance of the Bleu de Sassenage cheese: quite smooth rind, without any cracks.
Odour of the Bleu de Sassenage cheese: light odour of mould
Texture of the Bleu de Sassenage cheese: supple
Taste of the Bleu de Sassenage cheese: slightly sapid with some bitterness.
History of the Bleu de Sassenage cheese
Traces of the origin of the Bleu de Sassenage cheese have been found on the Massif de Vercors since the Middle-Ages. The relief and the climate of the Vercors make it impossible for the milk to be transported so the farmers transformed it into cheese called "Bleu dit des Monts de Sassanage." It was also known by the name "Bleu de Sassenage" because of Seigneur de Sassenage who, owner of the 4 parishes of Lans en Vercors, Villard de Lans, Méaudre et Autrans, had imposed a tax. In payment for this tax, he collected the cheeses the people had made and sold them on for his own benefit at Sassenage, the village which guarded the access to the mountains of Sassenage but did not participate in the production of the cheese. This exclusive right of the Seigneur ended in the 14th Century with the Charter of Baron Albert de Sassenage who authorised the producers to sell their cheese freely. This is when the cheese started to be known outside of the area where it was produced. Over the centuries it was an important object of trade. The 'coquetiers' (those who bought farm products, to then sell on) who gathered the products from Vercors, sold the cheese of Sassenage to the grocers on the markets of Grenoble and also to retailers who marketed the cheese in France and abroad and who contributed to its notority. The traditional farm fabrication of the cheese was still maintained up to the beginning of the 20th Century, but regressed around 1920 when the industry profited from sale of milk at Grenoble thanks to the tramway which left from Villard de Lans, and the transformation in the cooperative cheese dairies run by the cheese-makers of Savoie. It wasn't until about 10 years later that a dairy farmer from Savoie, who, due to the demand by the inhabitants who did not want to forget famous blue cheese, started to fabricate the cheese by adapting the traditional recepie formerly used by the farmers. This was the start of the dairy production of the cheese. The demand for acknowledgement of the cheese's origin deposed in 1993 by the "Syndicat de Défense" (the association for the protection of the cheese) prompted the farmers, along with the Ecoles de Laiterie of the Vercors to rethink the difficult farm production. It was in 1998 that the Appellation d'Origine was granted. The name which was retained as the official name was "Bleu de Vercors-Sassenage" to take into account the historic evolution which widens the name "Vercors" to the territory formerly known as the "Mountains of Sasseage."