Cheese and ashes

Last month when Andy was in town we took hearty advantage of the chance for some (for us) rare face-to-face meeting and eating. He arrived at my doorstep, cheeses in hand. And yes, they were well-cultured to a wedge. The one that’s stuck with me was the Morbier, as much for its resonant ash-stripe branding as the flavor (which was, of course, quite fine). Penitence never tasted so good.


Morbier is a semi-soft cows’ milk cheese of France named after the small village of Morbier in Franche-Comté. It is ivory colored, soft and slightly elastic, and is immediately recognizable by the black layer of tasteless ash separating it horizontally in the middle. It has a rind that is yellowish, moist, and leathery.

Traditionally, the cheese consists of a layer of morning milk and a layer of evening milk. When making Gruyère de Comté, cheesemakers would end the day with leftover curd that was not enough for an entire cheese. Thus, they would press the remaining evening curd into a mold, and spread ash over it to protect it overnight. The following morning, the cheese would be topped up with morning milk. Nowadays, the cheese is usually made from a single milking with the ash added for tradition.

The aroma of Morbier is found somewhat objectionable by some, though the flavor is rich and creamy, with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

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