Made in Normandie, in northern France, Pont l”Eveque is a traditional washed-rind, cow’s milk cheese. Once made in substantial quantities and granted AOC (name protected) status in 1976, production now takes place in only six dairies across the region.
Jerome and Francoise Spruytte are third generation cheesemakers and one of the six producers of Pont l’Eveque. Each day, they transform 800 liters (211 US gallons) of milk, sourced from 80 Normandie cows, into approximately 230 cheeses per “make” or batch.
After warming the milk in the vat and adding cultures and rennet, the milk is left to coagulate. An hour later, the soft, fresh curds are gently transferred onto a large open table, lined with linen. The transfer breaks the curds apart, releasing the whey and they are allowed to drain as Jerome scoops up the remaining solids into square shaped cheese molds.
The young cheeses in the molds are allowed to sit for a few hours, draining further, before being turned out and placed on plastic mats laid across wire racks. At this point, the cheeses are still very soft, so the Spruytts crowd them onto the racks, placing a metal band around the outside to help them maintain their shape.
For the next four or five days, the cheeses are each turned 90 degrees to prevent them sticking together. On day three, the cheeses are salted which promotes further draining and the desired rind growth.
On day six, the cheeses are transferred to an aging room where they remain until they are at least 15 days old. According to AOC rules, Pont l’Eveque cannot be released for sale until 20 days, but Jerome recommends eating his cheeses at between 28-42 days.
At this stage the cheeses take on a flavor of freshly cracked hazlenuts with a soft, unctious texture and aromatic, orange-pink rind.