Located just west of Petaluma in northern California, the Marin French Cheese Company was founded in1865 by Jefferson A. Thompson, largely as a response to the burgeoning demand for cheese arising from returning Gold Rush miners. Marin French, also known as Rouge et Noir, is the oldest continuously operating creamery in the United States.
Milk for cheese production originally came from the company's own herds of cattle that grazed the 700 acres of land surrounding the creamery. However, during the Depression of the 1930's, Marin French decided to focus its efforts entirely on production and try to support its neighbors by buying in milk from local farms. This arrangement continues today. Marin French specializes in the production of young and soft ripened cheeses.
For production of Melange, a 50/50 blend of cow and goats milk is pasteurized and poured into several hundred individual 20 gallon 'make' buckets. Bacterial starters are added to each bucket and then about 45 minutes later, the microbial rennet and either a mold or yeast culture are added. (The mold and yeast cultures are interchanged regularly every few days of production, since this promotes the health of each culture and keeps them alive.)
With the addition of the rennet, the milk coagulates. It is then cut into cubes using a long bladed knife and gently stirred at regular intervals. As the acidity level rises, the curds become firmer until they reach a point where they are ready to be poured into the molds and allowed to drain naturally. By the time the curd from each bucket has been put into the molds, the first cheeses are ready to be flipped for the first time. This manoever allows for the even distribution of moisture and drainage. The cheeses are turned again 2 hours later and then left to drain overnight.
After 14 hours the cheeses are unmolded and transferred to the brining room where they are brined for between 30-120 minutes. They are then placed on racks to dry for between 12-24 hours before being transferred to the aging rooms where they will spend 10-21 days before release. The cheeses are turned once during this time in order to promote mold growth.
The interior texture of the Melange is smooth, velvety and yielding with a bone white colored paste.
Flavors are mild, tasting of butter and cream with pleasant deep hints of earth, mushrooms and a mildly goaty tang.