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Rancid Epoisses at Hamel


VivreManger
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The regulations in the US and Canada are essentially the same. You can use the "lait cru" designation if your cheese falls short of the definition of pasteurized by one degree or one minute. Most "lait cru" cheeses have been heated to some extent, and many are virtually if not technically pasteurized.

Well, as the Syndicat wrote to me:

2 out of 4 producers of Epoisses [AOC] cheese use raw milk, representing about 20 % of the whole production of Epoisses cheese. They are : Laiterie de la Côte (21220 Brochon) and Ferme des Marronniers (21510 Origny-sur-Seine).

Since they did not list Berthaut, which is thermalized but not pasteurized, it appears that they are making the distinction between raw and cooked at a lower temp than "thermalization". Of course, as Ed Behr pointed out, it is not merely the rawness of the the milk that is at issue:

Unfortunately, with many cheeses, Epoisses and others, the raw milk can be so clean that laboratory strains of microflora must be added and they dominate the taste. Of course, what matters is the taste, and even with laboratory creatures it can be very good.

EDIT to add that, luckily, Berthaut époisses is very delicious. It would just be nice to compare.

Edited by badthings (log)
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Bux, are you sure you're not confusing Epoisses with some other cheese.  I've had plenty of Epoisses, and I don't think I would ever have described the rind as "hard" or particularly inedible -- even in the riper examples.  Usually looks something like this.  Vacherin Mont d'Or, on the other hand, sounds more to me like what you're talking about.

Hard is relative, but that's probably not the most descriptive term I could use. The rind I recall was a bit crusty, but maybe no more so that that of other washed rinds I generally eat. I may also have a cheese in mind that's a Berthaut cheese, but perhaps a bit stronger than most Epoisses. I know we ate that one with a spoon and I seem to recall being served Epoisses with a spoon in France. I'm not betting the farm on that, however and even if, it's possible that wasn't the norm although Mrs. B shares my recollection. On the web, I'm finding many pictures of Epoisses out of the box, although several web sites state The Texture can be very runny and it might be wise to serve this sinful cheese with a spoon. I think serveral commercial web sites get that blurb and the product from the same importer or exporter, or so it would seem from the exact same wording on mulitple sites.

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I thought only the exported Berthaut Epoisses was thermalized.

I suspect the lack of "lait cru" or "raw milk" on cheese labels is an attempt to avoid scrutiny by customs inspectors. Especially in the US, where these cheeses are technically illegal even after 60 days, the manufacturers benefit from introducing as much ambiguity as possible to their labels.

If Laiterie de la Côte is stating that its cheese should be aged for 10 weeks (as is implied by the best-by date), there must be some departure from the traditional Epoisses cheesemaking process which, as I understand it, takes about 5 weeks. Whether that difference involves storage, heat treatment, or something else, I don't know.

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I think epoisses can be very difficult to remove from the box when at room temperature, because then it is very runny. However, it might not be so bad coming from the refrigerator.

Carswell, thanks for the translation.

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I thought only the exported Berthaut Epoisses was thermalized.

I suspect the lack of "lait cru" or "raw milk" on cheese labels is an attempt to avoid scrutiny by customs inspectors. Especially in the US, where these cheeses are technically illegal even after 60 days, the manufacturers benefit from introducing as much ambiguity as possible to their labels.

If Laiterie de la Côte is stating that its cheese should be aged for 10 weeks (as is implied by the best-by date), there must be some departure from the traditional Epoisses cheesemaking process which, as I understand it, takes about 5 weeks. Whether that difference involves storage, heat treatment, or something else, I don't know.

Again, for what it is worth, my last Berthaut epoisses -- label agnostic on the subject of its milk -- was purchased in the States, where the climate, if not necessarily the literal reading of the relevant laws, is less tolerant of raw cheese than in Canada. The Laiterie de la Côte epoisses was bought in Canada and that explicitly stated that it was not pasturized.

When NAFTA was being negotiated much concern was raised in Canada about its possible effect on local raw milk cheese production, particularly in Quebec which has undergone a gastronomic revolution over the past ten to 15 years. The many producers of artisanal raw milk and other cheeses did manage to survive the change in trade laws, exactly how, I do not know.

As for ten weeks as opposed to five weeks, the source of that recommendation is uncertain. That particular label bore the name Freeman, presumably the importer. Whether the information simply transmitted the instructions of Laiterie de la Côte or was their own recommendation is unclear. The producer's own instructions do state that one should look at the bottom on the container for the best by date. And the Freeman-"supplied??" info was the only game in town.

I do await with patience the results of Lesley Chesterman's call to the Hamel affineur, to return us to the initial subject.

Edited by VivreManger (log)
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When NAFTA was being negotiated much concern was raised in Canada about its possible effect on local raw milk cheese production, particularly in Quebec which has undergone a gastronomic revolution over the past ten to 15 years.  The many producers of artisanal raw milk and other cheeses did manage to survive the change in trade laws, exactly how, I do not know.

Really? Can you cite a source? Granted that my mind's a sieve, but I closely followed the Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA debates and don't recall any brouhaha over raw-milk cheese. Also, although local production of raw-milk cheese predates the late '80s (think Oka), it didn't really take off until the '90s, when the FTA (1988) and NAFTA (1992) were already done deals.

There was a kerfuffle in the late '90s when Health Canada threatened to ban the importation of raw-milk cheese. Could that be what you're thinking of?

In ruminating about this, I realized I don't know when the pioneering Chaput imported the first raw-milk cheeses from France. I'd guess the late '80s but it'd be good to have a specific date. Anybody?

Edited by carswell (log)
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When NAFTA was being negotiated much concern was raised in Canada about its possible effect on local raw milk cheese production, particularly in Quebec which has undergone a gastronomic revolution over the past ten to 15 years.  The many producers of artisanal raw milk and other cheeses did manage to survive the change in trade laws, exactly how, I do not know.

Really? Can you cite a source? Granted that my mind's a sieve, but I closely followed the Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA debates and don't recall any brouhaha over raw-milk cheese. Also, although local production of raw-milk cheese predates the late '80s (think Oka), it didn't really take off until the '90s, when the FTA (1988) and NAFTA (1992) were already done deals.

There was a kerfuffle in the late '90s when Health Canada threatened to ban the importation of raw-milk cheese. Could that be what you're thinking of?

In ruminating about this, I realized I don't know when the pioneering Chaput imported the first raw-milk cheeses from France. I'd guess the late '80s but it'd be good to have a specific date. Anybody?

My source is a cousin who lives in Ayer's Cliff and in her hippie farming days, much before NAFTA, used to raise goats. Even after she abandoned livestock for pyschology and translation, she kept an eye out on the issue. The brouhaha may have been confined to the Eastern Township, but she mentioned it last summer when we were sampling different cheeses. I can ask her for more details.

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Hey bad things, that's great! A good thing.

Still waiting for the response from Hamel. I think the fellow was a little taken back by eGullet.

Understandable!

On the other hand, Georges Risoud, my correspondant at the syndicat, seems mostly amused by all these americans obsessed with époisses, or as he put it, "smelling cheese."

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  • 5 weeks later...

I just heard back from Mr. Picard of Fromagerie Hamel regarding Vivremanger's epoisse.

Mr. Picard is a very charming and gracious young man and I think his answer is honest, and his offer to reimburse the customer is admirable. :smile:

When I have a minute I'll translate, but for now, here's his response in French.

Merci Ian! :smile:

Cher Monsieur,

Un de nos clients a eu la gentillesse de nous faire part de l'insatisfaction

que vous avez témoignée face à l'Époisses que vous avez acheté dans notre

commerce en mars dernier. Nous en sommes vraiment désolés.

Vous mentionnez que votre fromage était trop avancé en maturité et, sans

vouloir mettre en doute vos affirmations, je vous avoue que cela m'étonne

pour deux raisons: dans un premier temps en raison du soin que nous

déployons à assurer un contrôle très serré de la qualité de nos produits et

dans un deuxième temps parce que nos conseillers ont l'habitude de veiller à

ce que le client reçoive un fromage adapté à ses goûts.

Il faut savoir aussi que l'Époisses Gaugry se distingue de l'Époisses

Berthault par certaines particularités. D'abord l'Époisses Berthault est

fabriqué avec du lait pasteurisé alors que l'époisses Gaugry est au lait

cru. Celui-ci révèle aussi une croûte plus foncée et plus humide ainsi

qu'une saveur plus relevée que le Berthault que vous aviez l'habitude de

consommer. Je pense toutefois, à en juger par votre description, que votre

Époisses a malheureusement échappé à notre vigilance et qu'il a été victime

d'une mauvaise rotation.

Mais quoiqu'il en soit, cela m'excuse pas le fait que vous ayez été

insatisfait. Nous vous présentons donc tous nos regrets et vous prions de

bien vouloir communiquer avec nous pour obtenir un remboursement. Voici mes

coordonnées:

Ian Picard,

vice-président et affineur

FROMAGERIE HAMEL

515 272-1161

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Thanks Lesley. At this point the best thing is probably for me to contact Ian Picard directly by phone and follow this up with a letter.

By the way, this does address the lait cru question the thread raised.

"l'Époisses Berthault est fabriqué avec du lait pasteurisé alors que l'époisses Gaugry est au lait cru."

I have Hamel's coordinates so I will contact them directly.

Again many thanks to you and to Ian Picard.

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I just heard back from Mr. Picard of Fromagerie Hamel regarding Vivremanger's epoisse.

Mr. Picard is a very charming and gracious young man and I think his answer is honest, and his offer to reimburse the customer is admirable. :smile:

When I have a minute I'll translate, but for now, here's his response in French.

Merci Ian! :smile:

Cher Monsieur,

Un de nos clients a eu la gentillesse de nous faire part de l'insatisfaction

que vous avez témoignée face à l'Époisses que vous avez acheté dans notre

commerce en mars dernier. Nous en sommes vraiment désolés.

Vous mentionnez que votre fromage était trop avancé en maturité et, sans

vouloir mettre en doute vos affirmations, je vous avoue que cela m'étonne

pour deux raisons: dans un premier temps en raison du soin que nous

déployons à assurer un contrôle très serré de la qualité de nos produits et

dans un deuxième temps parce que nos conseillers ont l'habitude de veiller à

ce que le client reçoive un fromage adapté à ses goûts.

Il faut savoir aussi que l'Époisses Gaugry se distingue de l'Époisses

Berthault par certaines particularités. D'abord l'Époisses Berthault est

fabriqué avec du lait pasteurisé alors que l'époisses Gaugry est au lait

cru. Celui-ci révèle aussi une croûte plus foncée et plus humide ainsi

qu'une saveur plus relevée que le Berthault que vous aviez l'habitude de

consommer. Je pense toutefois, à en juger par votre description, que votre

Époisses a malheureusement échappé à notre vigilance et qu'il a été victime

d'une mauvaise rotation.

Mais quoiqu'il en soit, cela m'excuse pas le fait que vous ayez été

insatisfait. Nous vous présentons donc tous nos regrets et vous prions de

bien vouloir communiquer avec nous pour obtenir un remboursement. Voici mes

coordonnées:

Ian Picard,

vice-président et affineur

FROMAGERIE HAMEL

515 272-1161

Translation:

Dear Sir,

One of our customers had the kindness to alert us to your dissatisfaction with Époisses that you bought in our shop last March. We are truly sorry.

You mention that your cheese was far too mature and, without wanting to question your assertions, I acknowledge you that that astonishes me for two reasons: initially because of the care which we deploy to ensure a very tight quality control of our products and secondly because our advisers are accustomed assuring that the customer receives a cheese adapted to his tastes.

It should be also known that Époisses Gaugry is distinguished from Époisses Berthault by certain characteristics. Initially Époisses Berthault is manufactured with pasteurized milk whereas the époisses Gaugry is with uncooked milk. This particular cheese features a darker and wetter crust as well as a more pronounced flavor than the Berthault that you are accustomed to consuming. I think however, judging by your description, that your Époisses has unfortunately slipped through our vigilance and that it was victim of a bad rotation.

Whatever happened, the fact that you were dissatisfied still remains. We thus present all our apology to you and ask you to send us your information in order to obtain a refund. Here is my contact information:

Ian Picard,

vice-président et affineur

FROMAGERIE HAMEL

515 272-1161

:smile:

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I think the thread title should be changed to "Flawless Customer Service at Hamel". I was so pleased to see the response from M. Picard. Every store, even a wonderful shop like Hamel, can make a mistake; it is all about the reaction once the mistake is uncovered.

Bravo, Lesley, for getting to the heart of this, and bravo, M. Picard!

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