At this point, we are scrounging for any silver linings in this COVID-19 pandemic we can find. So here’s one: there is a new kind of cheese! It’s called Le Confiné, appropriately enough. Yay?
The newsletter Smart Mouth (which you may recall from the interview we had with its editor, Katherine Spiers, earlier this year) has the story. Laura and Lionel Vaxelaire are dairy farmers in the Vosges region of eastern France. They make tomme and Munster cheese as well as yogurt. When the coronavirus hit France, people suddenly became less interested in buying cheese. That was fine for the tomme cheese, which can ripen for several months, but not so great for the Munster, which has a ripening period of just 21 days.
But the Vaxelaires decided that instead of throwing away all their Munster right away, they would try an experiment: instead of cleaning the ripening cheeses three times a day and turning it several times a day the way they normally would, they just let it sit.
“Left to mature on its own,” Smart Mouth’s Sam Harrison writes, “the cheese developed a speckled, white and grey bloomy rind and a mild flavor. When their kids tried it and immediately asked for seconds, they knew they had a hit.” After lockdown restrictions ended, the Vaxelaires began selling Le Confiné at their farm and in nearby markets.
New cheeses are rare because cheesemakers are busy fulfilling orders and seldom have time to experiment. This time it took a plague. Is Le Confiné perhaps the King Lear or calculus of cheeses?