Raclette – a cheese produced in Savoie which gave its name to a popular dish.
Raclette is a raw cow’s milk cheese with an uncooked pressed pâte.
The fat content is at least 45%.
Origins of Raclette
Originally, during winter, people in Savoie would gather around the fireplace and cut a round of cheese in half. This piece of cheese would be placed in the fireplace and would naturally start to melt. With a wooden spoon, the surface was regularly scraped for each guest. The melted cheese that spread slowly, sometimes surrounded by a golden edge of grilled rind, was poetically called the “religieuse” (the nun). Potatoes (cooked under the live charcoal or boiled), charcuterie and vinegar seasoned condiments made the whole dish convivial and nourishing.
With the arrival of electric power, the use of raclette grills quickly became common. Handy little pre-cut slices of cheese are used instead. We do not scrape anymore but we still cook a good raclette.
Raclette production area
Raclette can be made everywhere in France and also in Switzerland. Today, six manufacturers in Savoie have created a union in order to obtain an IGP for the Savoie Raclette. As for quality, there is also a Raclette Label Rouge (Red label) which is of a good quality.
The IGP (Protected geographic indication) is a European identification sign, created in 1992.
Granted to specific products carrying a geographic name and linked to their geographic origin, the IGP enables these products to be protected throughout the European Union.
The Label Rouge (Red Label) is only for cheeses made with milk from selected farms.
To ensure the milk is fresh, it is collected from farms every 48 hours and pasteurised in a very short time. The affinage is traditional and lasts for a minimum of 10 weeks on spruce boards. At the end of affinage, the rounds are classified according to their shape, texture and taste, before they receive the Label Rouge, sign of superior quality.
The production of Raclette
Raclette is only made out of raw full-cream milk, which is delivered twice a day to the cheese dairies.
The milk is curdled under the action of enzymes (rennet for example), from which the curd is obtained. The curd is then divided into big grains in order to extract the serum by vigorous kneading.
The curd-serum mixture is then moulded in pierced moulds to enable it to drain.
To increase the draining of the curd, the moulds are placed under pressure.
When taken out of the moulds, the cheeses are placed in brine. This salting contributes to the balance of the floral undertones, the taste and formation of the rind.
Then, to enhance the particular texture, taste and functional properties of the pâte, cheeses have to be brushed and regularly turned over in affinage cellars at controlled temperatures and humidity.
Each round is aged for at least three months. The name of the valley where it is produced is written on the heel of the cheese. There are many variations of raclette: white wine, smoked, peppered, cumin, herbs…
Selection and tasting of Raclette
Raclette has a cylindrical shape with a diameter of about 32 cm. It is 7 to 8 cm thick and weighs about 5.5 kg.
Thanks to the quality of its aroma and to the maturing of the cheese, which characterises its region, this cheese can also be eaten raw in slices at the end of a meal, or as a snack.
Raclette goes well with regional red and white fruity wines or with herbal tea.
French-Swiss and raclette: a language trick!
Swiss don’t eat “la raclette” but “le raclette”, when they talk about the cheese. In Switzerland, although it is the same cheese as in France, its gender is masculine, while the dish is feminine. In France, both cheese and dish have a feminine gender. Therefore, the Swiss buy “un raclette” to cook “une bonne raclette”.
Find out more about the French Alps.