Livarot cheese is a soft, washed-rind French cheese with a pungent smell and a characteristic orange rind that is bound in strips of green reed. It makes a superb cheese for serving as a separate course, although it is used in recipes as well. Learn more here about how to enjoy this lovely slice of France.
Origin and Description
Livarot cheese hails from the municipality of the same name, located in the region of Normandy in the north of France. It is actually made not far from its very famous cousin, le Camembert de Normandie.
It is sold in whole cylinders weighing 450 grams, but it also comes in smaller sizes. Some of them have their own cute cheese name: le trois-quart (three quarters), le demi - also called le Petit-Lisieux (half), and le quart (quarter).
French people sometimes refer to this cheese as le colonel. This is in reference to the strips of twine (sometimes real reed but more likely these days to be paper) that wrap around the cylinder of cheese. They are said to resemble the stripes on a colonel's uniform. At one time in its history trussing the cheese was necessary to keep it from losing its shape. These days the cheese making process has resolved this problem, but the trussing tradition continues.
The characteristic orange color of its rind may come from different sources depending upon the manufacturer. Sometimes it comes from a bacteria and other times it is just a natural dye.
This is strong smelling cheese at its best. You can expect your refrigerator to smell like a barnyard. These smells dissipate somewhat by leaving the cheese open and at room temperature before serving. Of course then your whole house smells like the barnyard.
As with almost all cheese, its bark is worse than its bite. Actually the bite is very tasty indeed. The heart of the cheese tends toward elastic rather than creamy. The rind,which can be eaten or not, adds a layer of bitterness to the taste and has a slightly gritty texture.
Livarot with Calvados
How to Serve Livarot Cheese
If you want to appreciate this cheese like the French do, serve it by itself with some hearty whole grain bread as a course following your main meal. Include a few grapes or other fresh fruit and you are set for a fine dining experience. Please, please eat Livarot and all good cheese at room temperature (take it out of the refrigerator before you sit down to dinner).
For a full Norman experience and if you are feeling brave, try it with Calvados, the local apple brandy.
For just as much local color but less burn, try it with a bubbly hard cider. It also goes well with a young and boisterous dry red wine
Livarot in Recipes
In France home cooks will also use Livarot cheese in recipes. Because it melts well, you might find it inside a tart or a crepe. If you have a recipe that calls for Livarot and aren't able to find it, try substituting Munster.
Some typical recipes that might use this cheese are:
Croustillants de Livarot - The cheese is wrapped in phyllo dough and gently fried in butter.
Mousseline de Livarot - Cheese souffle.
Tarte Colonel - A tart filled with cheese, bacon and onions.
To buy unpasteurized Livarot, you will probably have to come to France. This is not a bad thing and you can taste a lot of other fabulous French cheese while you are here.
If you are willing to compromise (which we all should be), you may be lucky and find this cheese in its pasteurized form in a gourmet food store or a specialty cheese shop. Barring that, guess what? You can order this French cheese and a whole lot of others for home delivery.
Where ever you buy this cheese, do look for the AOC (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) and nowadays the AOP (Appellation d'origine protégée) that indicate that it has been made in accordance with all of the standards and techniques demanded of a true Livarot.