Named after a valley in the French Alps where the cheese is made - as well as the village where it was first produced - Abondance is a cheese with a long history. The Valley of Abondance, located in the Haute-Savoie region of the French Alps, is where France and Switzerland meet, but Abondance is made only on the French side of the border.
For fifteen centuries, Abondance cows, with their brown bodies and distinct white markings, have grazed in Alpine pastures at altitudes of 4,300 to 6,000 feet above sea level during the summer. Along with two other local breeds, Tarentaise and Montbéliarde, Abondance cows produce the milk for this AOC/PDO-certified cheese. The first written record of Abondance is from the twelfth century. Monks in the valley began producing Abondance as a means of generating income for their monasteries. By the fourteenth century, the cheese had won acclaim throughout Europe, and in 1381 it was served to the Papal enclave in Avignon.
Due to its long history, in 1990 it was awarded Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée protection. As part of this designation, Abondance must be made in a traditional manner, which includes regulations around the communities of dairies that produce the cheese. Currently there are around sixty licensed farm and co-operative producers, or “fruitières,” of the cheese. They are all located in the Haute-Savoie region and the milk for the cheese must be produced from within the same area.
In order to produce the cheese, raw milk is poured into a copper cauldron, which is heated to warm the milk. Rennet is added to coagulate the milk and, once the curds are formed, they are cut and re-heated to a higher temperature before being cut again by hand. Then, using cheese cloth, the curds are strained from the whey and placed into molds, which form the iconic wide wheels with concave sides. Once the shape of the cheese is established, the wheels are removed from their molds, salted, and placed on spruce shelves in moist caves.
Abondance has a bright orange rind as a result of its 100-day aging in the cool and moist aging caves. The interior paste is light yellow with a slight sheen and a few small eyes dotted throughout. The texture is smooth and rich. Like many other alpine cheeses, Abondance has a floral flavor with undertones of hazelnuts and nice acidity. Its flavors linger on the tongue.
This cheese pairs nicely with various beers and dry white wines. It can be used as a table cheese and works best when served with green apples or cornichons. It also works very well in fondue or melted over root vegetables.