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Cheese making in the Alps

Cheese 1Skiing and vin chaud, Ant and Dec, Mountains and Cheese – all are natural partners that belong together.
The high mountains in summer provide the perfect environment to grow grass and for cattle to graze. They also produce a sufficient surplus that is harvested and stored as silage to feed the animals in winter when they have to be kept inside.
In times past, before refrigerated transport and the invention of the internal combustion engine, the milk they produced had to be converted into a stable non-perishable product soon after milking.
Hence, the plethora of mountain cheeses throughout the Alps.
Each valley has its own. Here in the Haute Tarentaise it’s Cheese 2Beaufort and Tomme. Hop over pointy mountain to Morzine and it’s Abondance.
All the mountain farmers are fiercely proud of their cheese heritage and their local cheese. Accept no others!
I dropped in to Restaurant Le Forperet, just above Montalbert where three times a week they demonstrate the cheese making process.
It’s simple enough; 100 litres of fresh milk are gently warmed to blood temperature in a copper cauldron and a natural rennet added. This causes the curds (the solids) to separate from the whey (the liquid). The mixture is then gently sliced to break the curds and gently agitated with, unless my faltering French let me down, a hand-made pine stirrer for about 20 mins. Once a certain temperature Cheese 3has been reached the whey is syphoned off leaving just the curds. These are then piled into perforated plastic tubs, inverted and left to drain. In short order, a soft plug of cheese is produced about the size of a tin of Quality Street.
The cheese is then stored to let the flavour develop as the initial soft curds are remarkably tasteless.
The longer the cheese matures, the stronger the flavour, whilst the time of year also influences the taste; Summer Beaufort (Beaufort d'été) is full of the flavours of the lush grass and alpine flowers as the cows have grazed on the spring & summer pastures, whilst Winter Beaufort (Beaufort d'hiver) has a more muted favour as the cows are indoors and fed on silage.
Cheese 4Both, however, are fabulous, so don’t forget to take a large slice home! And if you buy it locally it’s great value.


No reservation is necessary to watch the cheese making and it takes place on Tuesday @ 3pm, Thursday & Saturday @ 10.30am. It’s also free of charge. Any morning visit would be an easy ski from Les Coches or La Plagne – just head for Montalbert and Restaurant Le Forperet is adjacent to the du Gentil piste.
The restaurant is fabulously situated on a sunny slope complete with magnificent views of the mountains – so why not stop for coffee or lunch?

Monsieur Mogul


Monsieur Mogul – Our man in La Plagne

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author

alone and not those of Ice and Fire Ski and Snowboard Holidays


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