Livarot is a soft-ripened, rind- washed cheese made from cow’s milk in an area of Normandy called “Pays d’Auge”. It is one of the oldest cheeses from Normandy. It has been labelled with an AOC since 1975 (and a PDO, subsequently).

With a shiny and smooth orange-red rind, a cylindrical shape and a strong taste, Livarot is recognizable by the five “laîches” (cf “what is a “laîche?” below) that surround it. It received the nickname of “The Colonel” because these fibers reminded people of military uniforms. Livarot has a diameter of 4.8 inches, a height of 2 inches, and weighs around 1.1 pounds.

History and Production

Livarot is named after the city in which the biggest producers’ market was held during the 17th century. Back then, this cheese was made from skim milk because fat content was mostly used to make butter. As a result, Livarot contains a high percentage of protein. A few days after its molding, producers sold Livarot by the dozen to cheese maturing professionals at the markets. Cheese agers salted the cheese and put it in a “hâloir” (a ventilated place with a temperature of 60°F where cheese can be dried). After 15 days, the cheeses were transferred in a maturing cellar. Twice a week, cheese agers washed the cheese, rubbed it and turned it. They added reed fibers to prevent it from losing its shape.

Nowadays, milk is directly collected from farmers and the whole process is handled by small businesses. The milk can be pasteurized but the process is still the same: curdling, molding, salting, ageing (with washing, rubbing and turning). The maturation process takes at least 35 days.

A normand cow

A normand cow

Other Requirements for the Livarot Protected Designation of Origin

All the steps of production of this cheese have to take place in the “Pays d’Auge” area. By 2017, all milk producers for Livarot will exclusively breed Normande cows. Between 2014 and 2017 dairy producers will reorganize their herds to comply with this new requirement. Additionally, the cows have to graze for at least 6 months a year.

Key Facts about Livarot

- 110 milk producers
- 4 cheese processors
- 1300 tons of cheese produced a year

What is a “laîche”?

A “laîche” is a reed found in swamps and lakes that can reach 6.6 feet. People working in cheese processing plants harvest these plants in August and September. They put the “laîches” in a ventilated barn to dry. Once dried, stems are defibered down to thin strips a fifth of an inch wide. The strips are boiled for a few hours before they are put on the cheese. “Laîches” have to be harvested in the geographical area designated by the PDO.