There are a lot of cheeses we can’t get in the US, thanks to the FDA’s strict rules on importing raw-milk cheeses. Anything aged fewer than 60 days can’t legally make it into the country, which rules out all name-protected bries and camemberts, as well as a whole slew of soft-ripened, fresh and young cheeses.
One such cheese is a little thing called Reblochon.
A washed-rind cheese that hails from Haute-Savoie, a department within the southeastern region of France named Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Reblochon is technically an Alpine cheese because of its provenance in the Jura mountains.
Like many old cheeses, Reblochon is known for its creation myth. According to legend, the cheese came about in the thirteenth century because of farmers who were trying to avoid paying their full milk taxes to the church and noblemen who controlled their lands.
The farmers would not milk their cows all the way before the inspector arrived to calculate how much they owed, they would pay their taxes based on what they had milked out, and then as soon as the inspector left, they would finish milking the cows. The milk from that second milking would be turned into Reblochon, which the farmers would later eat secretly while they gloated about having pulled one over on the inspector.
The name Reblochon comes from the verb “reblocher,” which in the regional dialect of the Thônes valley means “to pinch a cow’s udder again,” or to milk the cow a second time.
Reblochon is a relatively small cheese as Alpine wheels go, measuring about five inches in diameter, around one inch tall, and weighing eight to ten ounces. It is considered a semihard cheese.
Reblochon is made from the milk of one of three types of cows: Abondance, Montbéliarde, or Tarentaise. It is traditionally a farmstead cheese, made on the farms where it is milked—just like those historical farmers who cheated their tax collectors and thus created a really great cheese—and many Reblochons are still made on farms today. The cheese is also now made by dairy coops and in more industrial dairies.
Importantly, Reblochon is made with raw, whole milk. Because this little cheese, which is molded, pressed, and then brined before and during being ripened in a cellar, is only aged for four to five weeks, it cannot be imported to the US.
The next best thing we can get around these parts is a Reblochon-style cheese named Préféré, which is imported by a French company called Fromi.
Préféré is basically a pasteurized version of Reblochon. The cheese’s terroir will not be as intense as in raw-milk versions of the cheese, however Préféré looks, feels and tastes roughly the same as real Reblochon.
Préféré is a pretty thing, with its orangey-white washed rind and its butter-yellow paste. Small enough that you can buy it by the quarter- or half-wheel without breaking the bank, this cheese is as good for smearing on bread or crackers as it is on a sandwich of good rustic bread, mustard, and ham or turkey, or better yet melted with potatoes, diced bacon, and onions (aka the delicious French-Alpine gratin, Tartiflette).
By itself, the cheese will have a slightly nutty flavor with some bitter notes and a buttery, creamy finish. It might be too strong for people who don’t like “stinky cheese,” but it really isn’t all that stinky.