Named after a market town in Normadie, Northern France, Livarot is produced from raw cow’s milk. It also carries a nickname “The Colonel”, due to the five rush bands that encircle the cheese which resemble the shoulder stripes of a colonel’s uniform.
According to its AOC name protected designation, cheeses have to be made within a 12 mile radius of the town and only from the milk of the Normandie cow.
Livarot is thought to have been created by monks about 700 years ago although now the raw milk version is only made by one remaining dairy, La Fromagerie Graindorge whose owner, Thierry Graindorge is the third generation to make and mature the cheeses.
For production of Livarot, semi-skimmed milk is used and allowed to “ripen” for 24 hours before being heated which is when the rennet is added. Curds are cut carefully into small cubes, mixed until they become pea sized and then poured into tall round molds in two steps to ensure the dense texture of the cheese. The molds are turned several times during the first 24 hours before being unmolded and dipped in a brine solution.
Cheeses are then transferred to wire racks and transferred to an aging room, where they are dipped in brine several more times over the ensuing six week maturation period. The brine is dyed red with the annato seed (from a South American shrub) which in turn colors the cheeses a deep red on the rind. The salt contained within the brine encourages the growth of the bacterium linens mold that gives the cheese it pungent aroma and moist almost gritty rind.
Finally, each cheese is wrapped with five narrow strips of the leaf of the water sedge. The leaves are harvested in July and August and then dried and split. Before being used, they’re boiled for several hours and then wrapped around each cheese.
Originally, this was to help preserve the cheese’s shape but today it is for form and tradition rather than function, though it is a requirement for the AOC label.
The rind of Livarot is deep orange-red in color, with gentle ridges resulting from maturing on the wire racks and the contrasting sedge bands around the sides of the cheese.
The interior texture is dense, springy and slightly open. Flavors are powerful and aromatic and feels quite heavy on the tongue with a slightly metallic aftertaste.
Livarot pairs very well with Calvados, produced in the same area as well as an Alsacian wine.