The Neufchâtel PDO is a cheese with a soft paste produced exclusively with whole milk from cows of Norman breeds located in the village of Bray in Normandy.
The production area of Neufchâtel PDO covers the area of Bray, in 135 municipal areas neighbouring Neufchâtel-en-Bray located in the department of Seine-Maritime and in a municipal area of Oise, in the regions of Upper-Normandy and Picardy. The area with the densest farmers' production is located between Neufchâtel-en-Bray and Forgesles-Eaux.
Animals which are nurtured above all with grass in summer and local hay in winter are used to produce the milk. The cheese is obtained from a curd with milk predominance through a slow coagulation of milk, which needs the addition of a bit of rennet and which is obtained in 24 hours in summer and in 36 hours in winter. The whey is eliminated before putting it into the mould with a pressure on the curd. The paste is pressed into traditional moulds which give the cheese its characteristic shape. The cheese moulds, dry salted, are put on grillages to favour the dripping of whey. Ripening is made in humid and fresh cellars (12°c to 15°C). The cheeses can be tasted fresh, 10 days after curdling, or they can be ripened for different weeks and sometimes different months.
Appearance and Flavour
Neufchâtel PDO is a slightly salted cheese with a white, flowered rind. The paste is ivory colour, smooth and firm but soft, velvety and delicate. It has a slightly piquant and acid flavour with an aftertaste of mushrooms.
The origin of Neufchâtel PDO goes back to the 10th century. In 1035, a tax on the cheeses sold was levied on the farms of the valley of Bray which was given to the Abbey of Sigy. In the 16th century, this cheese was famous and much appreciated; later it was exported also to Great Britain and, as told by tradition, was offered as a tribute to Napoleon. During the Hundred Years' War, the girls offered the British soldiers heart-shaped cheeses to express their love.
Neufchâtel PDO must be conserved in the least cold compartment of the refrigerator into a sealed package. Before eating it, it is suggested to leave it at room temperature for about one hour. It is tasted cold or used to prepare different dishes. Generally, Neufchâtel PDO is tasted at the end of a meal. It is also much appreciated as a snack or with salad. It perfectly combines with fruity red wines like Côtes du Rhône and Beaujolais or with fresh cider. To taste a very good combination with the wine, the ripest cheeses must be combined with more bodied wines.
The product is sold as Neufchâtel PDO. It is marketed whole in six different formats: Bonde (4,5 cm diameter, 6,5 cm height, 100 gr weight); Double Bonde (5,8 cm diameter, 8 cm height and 200 gr weight); Carré (6,5 cm width, 2,4 cm height and 100 gr weight); Briquette (7 cm length, 5 cm width, 3 cm height and 100 gr weight); Coeur (8,5 cm from centre to end; 10 cm from a rounded side to the other, 3,2 cm height and 200 gr weight); Gros Coeur (10,5 cm from centre to end, 11 cm from a rounded side to the other, 5 cm height, 600 gr weight).
The milk used for the production of Neufchâtel PDO comes from animals nurtured exclusively with fresh or dry forage from the production area, this helps to give the cheese its characteristic flavour.