Morbier (pronounced "more-bee-AY") is a semi-soft cow milk cheese made in the Franche-Comte region. It's characterized by a pencil-thin layer of vegetable ash that runs through its middle, traditionally meant to distinguish between the evening (bottom) milking and the morning (top) milking. Today, the cheese is made from just one milking, but the ash remains as a nod to its original recipe, when ash was used not only to prevent a rind from forming before the morning milk was added, but also to protect the fresh curd from flies and other insects.
Morbier melts beautifully. It's made in one of the best regions of the world for fondue, after all. There's a bit of a pungency that comes from the washing of the rind with a salt water brine. And it has that pleasant pudgy-creamy-sticky texture, which comes from the fact that the cheese is pressed for just about a day, and it's only aged for about 45-60 days. (Although, since it's made from raw milk, what we find in the States will be aged the mandatory 60 days.)
It's equally impressive on its own on a cheese plate. A black plate would be nice. Or, as one reader in the comments of this post suggests, melted on sourdough bread with cashew butter and fig jam. Hm. We might need some convincing about this particular suggestion.
• Find it: Morbier is available for $12.50/lb from Artisanal Cheese.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of the Cheese Course at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Image: Artisanal Cheese)