Mimolette cheese is a type of pasteurized cow’s cheese made in the north of France mostly near the city of Lille (which is where it gets its other name: Boule de Lille), although it is also made in nearby Lorraine and Normandy. The cheese varies from firm to crunchy and is said to have a taste that evokes fresh nuts, with the crust having hints of caramel and coffee, with a salty-sweet aftertaste.
A bright orange cheese with a thick crust, mature Mimolette has a relatively mild taste. The bright-orange color of the cheese’s interior gives it another nickname, the “Halloween cheese.” The color comes from adding a small grain called rocou to the milk. Rich in carotene, it serves as natural food coloring for the cheese.
The cheese dates its origins to the reign of Louis XIV, who banned the import of Dutch cheeses into the kingdom of France in 1675 during a war with the Netherlands. The cheese is the result of King Louis XIV’s desire to distinguish French cheeses from Dutch production.
Mimolette cheese is produced in giant bowling-ball sized spheres that weigh about 6 pounds with a tough natural rind. During the ripening, the cheeses are hit repeatedly with a boxwood hammer to test their quality and to detect any possible irregularities. If the sound is muffled, that means that the Mimolette doesn’t have any irregularities in its dough and is of good quality. If a hollow sound occurs when hitting the cheese, that means that the crust has holes in it and isn’t of high enough quality.
The cheese is aged over a long period of time. Mature Mimolette (Mimolette vieille in French) must be aged at least 12 months before coming to market. Extra-mature Mimolette is aged at least 18 months (also called Mimolette étuvée). As the cheese ages, its color may change from bright orange to almost red.
Mature Mimolette and extra-mature Mimolette benefit from the Red Label quality sign, which designates products that, by the production conditions, provide a higher level of quality that is superior to other similar products. The methods of production for Red Label products are strictly adhered to and protected.
Mimolette should be eaten before dinner as an apéritif or enjoyed after a meal, and can be accompanied with light red Burgundy wine, fruity white wine or an abbey beer.