October 12, 2021 2 min read
Vacherin at its best courtesy of @thecheeseexplorer
There are 10 producers of Vacherin and Sancey Richard are the smallest, accounting for 2% of all the Vacherin production. They are the only private, family run producer left with the other 9 being co-operatives.
There are a few production steps which sets their cheese apart. The first of these is to ripen their evening milk at 12C overnight where the other producers chill their milk to 4C. The higher temperature allows the naturally present lactic acid bacteria to get to work before the starter cultures are added the following morning and this extra time for acidification allows the cheeses to have greater flavour potential.
The next key difference is after the curd is set, when the cut particles are stirred in the whey in the vat. Sancey Richard are the only producer who stir their curds and whey by hand. The other producers use mechanical stirrers and it is a continuous process. The Sancey Richard team pause stirring and allow the curd to settle before starting again after a rest period. The effect of stirring is to form a pellicule or sealed edge to the curd particles. If the curd is stirred continuously, the skin is formed more quickly and seals in more moisture. The effect of this as the cheeses mature is that they will develop the characteristic creamy texture too quickly and before the flavour has had chance to develop. The pauses in the Sancey Richard cheesemaking means that more moisture is released into the whey before the pellicule completely forms. Their cheeses mature between 6 to 8 weeks so the texture is relaxing to smooth creaminess after the flavour has had chance to develop.
Vacherin is made quickly with the cheeses ready to have spruce bands applied the same morning. Sancey Richard work with 3 local Jura spruce producers and bands are of varying thickness. They make sure that if there is a thinner batch that they are doubled up so the amount of influence on the flavour from the spruce is constant.
Finally their cheeses are larger than others available. The Sancey Richard team deliberately make cheeses that need to be squeezed into the boxes and in order to do this, they cut a slit in the bottom of the cheese to make it easier to manipulate. This means not only do you get a larger cheese for your money but it creates an attractive, undulating crust which they have chosen to accentuate in imitation of the Jura mountains in the area where the cheese is made.