It gains its name from the old French word “Fourme”, taken from the Latin “forma” and describes a cylindrical shape and from the town of Ambert in the region of Auvergne.
Produced in the Auvergne region, Fourme d’Ambert is one of France’s oldest cheeses, dating back to the Roman occupation nearly 1,000 years ago. It is said that both the Druids and the Gauls had already developed the art of making this unique cheese before the Roman occupation. There is also a quite unmistakable image of Fourme D’Ambert carved in to stone at La Chaume, above the 9th century medieval chapel entrance.
The unpasteurised cows milk, for this mild and creamy blue cheese, comes from the herds that graze on meadows between 500 and 1500 meters up in the Monts du Forez. Depending on the time of the year, about 25 litres of milk is used to create each cheese.
The cheese is a traditional farmhouse blue cheese that can be made by a co-operative or an artisanal cheesemaker. The raw unpasteurised milk is heated with the starter culture. The culture causes the milk to release the lactose. Rennet is added and reacts to the lactose which causes the curds and whey to separate.
The whey drains away and the curds are scooped into tall, cylindrical moulds. Whilst in the moulds, the curds are seeded or injected with penicillium Roqueforti. As the curds are not pressed to expel all the moisture, the cheese keeps its light and fine texture with an open curd structure.
Hollow needles are pushed into the cheese to promote and encourage the blue moulds to develop throughout each cheese. The cheeses are then left to mature for a minimum of 40 days, within humid but ventilated cellars. However, nearly all Fourme D’Ambert AOC are left for longer (anything up to four months) to reach optimum maturity and quality.
It is during this lengthy maturity that the cheeses are injected with Vouvray Moelleux, a sweet white wine, to maintain the moisture within the cheese and to provide an added level of taste complexity.
The pate (or body of the cheese) is a creamy white with mottling caused by the spores of penicillium Roqueforti. This gives the cheese a distinctive appearance whilst its taste is of butter and cream that compliments and counteracts the blue moulds.
Due to the semi-soft texture and blue moulds, Fourme D’Ambert AOC does not recommend being eaten by those who are pregnant. Also, as it contains animal rennet it’s not suitable for vegetarians
In 1972 its AOC, appellation d’origine controlee, status was granted along with Forme de Montbrison, an almost identical cheese, but in 2002, in recognition of their differences in both style and terroir Forme de Montbrison received its own individual AOC status.
To enjoy Fourme D’Ambert we would suggest that it be served with a sweet Sauternes or perhaps a full-bodied Beaujolais to enhance the sweetness and complexity of the cheese.
The Parisian Kitchen has a fabulous recipe for “Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Pear and Blue Cheese”. However, Fourme D’Ambert is perfectly at home on the cheeseboard or baked into a cheese soufflé and drizzled with mountain honey. But, in our opinion, a wedge of cheese and a crusty loaf is not only the simplest of choices but it’s also the most tasty.
Fourme D’Ambert AOC is best at room temperature. Remove from the fridge when you open your bottle of wine; thus allowing the temperature of the cheese to slowly rise.
When you have finished. resist the temptation to wrap the cheese in cling film or place it in an airtight container. Cheese needs to breathe or it will sweat. So rewrap in the wax paper your cheesemonger used and place it in the crisper draw of your fridge. Cheese stored like this will keep for up to 14 days from the date it was cut by your cheesemonger.
If some white blooming appears, it is totally natural, don’t be concerned, just remove it and enjoy the remainder of your Fourme D’Ambert AOC.