The Neufchâtel is a soft-ripened cheese made from cow’s milk in the area of Normandy called “Pays de Bray”. Softly salted, this cheese has a fluffy white skin and a firm, smooth inside. You can find it under different shapes, but the heart is its most famous one, making it instantly recognizable.
The Neufchâtel was probably originally created more than one thousand years ago in “Pays de Bray”; one of the oldest areas with a strong tradition of cheese-making. The farmers have transmitted the recipe of this heart-shaped cheese from generation to generation, throughout the last millennium. The Neufchâtel’s production reached its apogee during the XIX century. In 1880 a farmer named Isidore Lefebvre created a Neufchâtel cheese factory in Nesle-Hodeng, where he could mold and refine the curdled milk produced in the surrounding farms. His cheeses were even sold in the famous stores of Harrods in London.
After World War II, the production began to decrease, and the city of Neufchâtel-En-Braie reacted by creating the Neufchâtel Cheese Quality Label Defense Union. Thanks to this Union, the Neufchâtel cheese was labelled AOC in 1977, and has since been protected against all possible imitations.
Requirements for the Neufchâtel Protected Designation of Origin
To get the appellation, all the steps of production of this cheese have to take place in the “Pays de Bray” area. By 2017, the milk producers must breed at least 60% of Normand cows which must pasture 6 months thorough the year. Either pasteurized or raw milk can be used to produce Neufchâtel. After being molded, the cheese has to be ripened at least 10 days with a temperature between 50 and 60 °F. This cheese is usually consumed young, but you may find older Neufchâtel in the “Pays de Bray” which is ripened until three months. In this case, the taste of the cheese becomes stronger, and the skin is covered with spots of red ferments.
Key Facts about Neufchâtel production
7 milk producers
29 cheese processors
29 cheese ripeners
1 300 tons produced each year