Named after the valley in the French Alps where the cheese is made, as well as the village where it was first produced, Abondance is a historic cheese. The Valley of Abondance is 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 15 centuries, Abondance cows with their brown bodies with white markings have grazed in alpine pastures at altitudes of 4,300 to 6,000 feet above sea level during the summer. They, along with two other local breeds, Tarentaise and Montbéliarde produce the milk for this AOC/PDO cheese.
The first written record of Abondance is from the 12th century. Monks in the Valley began producing Abondance as a means of generating income for their monasteries. By the 14th century, the cheese had won acclaim throughout Europe and in 1381 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 60 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 cut again by hand.
Then, using cheese cloth, the curds are removed from the whey and placed into molds, which form the iconic wide wheels with concave sides. Once the shape of the cheeses are established, they are removed from their molds, salted and placed on spruce shelves in moist caves.