A single cheese in its kind
The distinctive characteristic of Herve cheese is based on its method
of production, the climate and the nature of the
pastures, but above all on the presence of a single
strain of bacteria (Bacterium linens).
Herve cheese has "nose", character and personality. Some enjoy it ripe
and mature. Others prefer it milder. It's a question of taste. In most
cases, it is cubic in shape (the characteristic "Herve" comes in the
shape of a 6x6 cm ‘pavé' or block). It is a soft cheese with a washed
rind, obtained from unpasteurised (Remoudou) or pasteurised milk. Its
texture is consistent, firm, smooth and creamy and it has a 45% minimum
fat content. Its inimitable flavour has put it into the big league and
makes it a welcome addition to the finest cheeseboards.
The present lush pasturelands originally used to be dense forests. The
land was converted into meadows towards the middle of the 16th century.
The local people used the pastureland for raising cattle. During a
period when the means of communication were few and far between or
tediously slow, what was needed was a dairy product with very good
keeping qualities. Cheese fitted the bill perfectly. As cheese takes a
fairly long time to ripen, it was possible to transport it on long
distances, to customers living in regions that could sometimes be a very
long way away.
Prior to 1930, nearly all the farmers from the Herve
Land made the cheese on their holdings. Nowadays,
cheese producers in Herve have become what can only be called
craftspeople, as the preparatory process calls for a great deal of
family labour, cleanliness and hygiene.
Once the cows have been milked, the jugs of milk are
gathered together in a warm place and poured into a vat with slanting
sides where the milk is curdled.
One and a half hours after having added the rennet which provokes the
curdling, the curds are cut into four pieces. Fifteen minutes later, the
coagulated curdled milk is cut into small pieces the size of a hazel nut.
When the curds are sufficiently coagulated,
they are poured between wooden planks to shape the cheese. The strips of
curds thus formed are pressed lightly and turned over after a few hours.
They are turned 4 or 5 times per day for two days and finally cut into curd
cubes which are reshaped between the planks.
During the ripening period, each cheese is washed
individually two or three times a week with slightly salty water
so a slightly rosy rind is formed : the smear.
Various qualities are obtained, depending on the various washing
procedures and ripening times: mild, semi-mild, sharp…
All that remains now is to pack the cheeses and send them to the
Herve cheese is eaten simply with bread and butter or covered with apple
and pear syrup (another regional speciality) and accompanied
with a nice cup of coffee.
Throughout Europe there is a wealth of great food products. When they
gain a reputation that extends beyond our borders, such as our dairy
products for example, they can be faced with competition from imitations
on the market that encroach on their name. This unfair competition
misleads consumers and penalises producers. For this reason, in 1992
the European Community created a system to protect and
promote food products. The Appellation d'Origine Protegée (AOP) or Protected
Designation of Origin (PDO) is part of that system..
"The Protected Designation of Origin covers the term used to describe
foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given
geographical area using recognised know-how."
Herve cheese was awarded the PDO in 1996.
Its producers and its association
The association “Fromage de Herve” consists
of small-scale traditional skilled cheese-makers and firms driven by the
same passion: making and distributing high-quality traditional products,
honouring the production secrets of the past. Although production
demands meet the strictest standards (carefully controlled raw
materials, ultra-modern equipment, safety, hygiene, transport, etc.),
the original flavour remains the same.
The "Espace des Saveurs et Découvertes"
At the main tourist office you can meet Jean de Herve …. This nobleman
with his warm voice will help you to discover his land and its richness
in architecture, gastronomy ….
Two brotherhoods have for mission the defense of the Herve cheese
interests : the Brotherhood
of the Herve cheese and the Seigneury