WHAT IS PONT L’EVEQUE?
The name Pont l’Eveque is derived from the French term for “Norman Abbey”. This cheese was originally made in Normandy during the Middle Ages. Known back then as d’Angelot, this cow’s milk fromage is washed in a salty brine. The resulting fermentation makes the rind “fragrant” to put it nicely.
Like in most of France you have the “fermier” (farmhouse) versions that will never see the light of day in the U.S.A. And you have the laitier or more industrial, pasteurized versions. In both cases the cheese curds are pressed in blocks, versus wheels, giving it a distinctive square shape. So rather than cutting Pont l’Eveque into pie slices, you cut it into triangles (or half squares) when serving.
Similar to wine’s weirdly positive descriptions like “cat pee”, a nice Pont l’Eveque can give off a chemical whiff. No, someone isn’t trying to kidnap you with an ammonia soaked rag. That is just your cheese saying hi. Pont l’Eveque is a great melting cheese, and is often used in hearty, Alpine recipes.
WHERE IS PONT L’EVEQUE MADE?
This French fromage is made in the northwest region of Basse-Normandie. Manufacturers are mostly located in the commune of Pont-l’Évêque in the Calvados (a classic drink) section. Normandy the name comes from the Scandinavian word for “Northman” from when Vikings settled there in the 9th century.
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Normandy is a place that has been conquered since the dawn of recorded memory. However it was the vikings whose visits from 800 A.D. were among the most memorable. They would repeatedly stop by and re-introduce new generations to the the S.A.T. vocabulary word “brigandage.” From then on, France become such a popular discount shopping destination for Scandinavians. At one point 700 Viking ships sailed up the Seine to attack Paris! This is back when the city itself only had a population of around 30,000 people. With an average of about 45 vikings per longboat, more brigands were attacking the city then were in Paris itself. A year later Rolf became the first ruler of Normandy as their viking Chief. He introduced new naval, farming and mercantile trade to the region. Unfortunately he also would hang animals and people from trees as sacrifices for good luck.
WHAT CAN I PAIR WITH PONT L’EVEQUE?
Normandy is famous for its alcoholic apple cider and Calvados brandy. Both pair well with this fromage. Sweet wines, Gewürztraminers or Rieslings can work. If you really want a red go with a Syrah. For cheese flights stay away from other washed rind cheeses. Or if you prefer a more pungent fromage flight, try a sheep’s milk Roquefort and a Brie de Meaux. For a milder selection of French cheeses, try a goat’s milk Chevrot and sheep’s milk Ossau Iraty.