Beaufort is an exquisite cheese made in the French Alps in the departément Savoie. Beaufort evolved over its hundreds of years of production and gained its own distinctiveness and renown. This dense cheese is of a harder, smooth texture, with a varying shades of yellow depending on which seasonal variety is being produced. Like other familiar cheeses such as Comté, Beaufort’s firm texture is obtained by removing excess whey and moisture, first by pressing the curds and then by heating the cheese before leaving it to age. But the bold flavor of the cheese can be directly attributed to the meticulous diet and unconventional environment of its two approved milk producers: the Tarine and Abondance cow breeds. The unparalleled quality and flavor of Beaufort was recognized on the national level in 1968 when it received its status as an AOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) and again by the EU in 2009, when it obtained its PDO status (Protected Designation of Origin).
The history of Beaufort is almost as rich as its flavor. 17th century French mountain farmers in the Alpine valley of Beaufortain tried their hand at bulk production (90 lb wheels) of gruyere-type cheese. The result, called “Grovire,” was a very popular product, appreciated in particular for its ease of transport and conservation thanks to its round, concave shape. Production soon spread to the neighboring valleys of Tarentaise and Maurienne, and its popularity reached its zenith during the French Revolution, at which point over one hundred thousand pounds were being delivered to Paris. In 1865, Grovire was officially renamed Beaufort as a salute to its native valley, and the cheese enjoyed much success until post World War II, when poor economic conditions nearly caused its extinction.
Dairy production in inhospitable mountains regions such as the Alps is a costly endeavor fortunately, the creation of the first dairy cooperative in 1961 and the new strict demand for quality at every step of production put Beaufort back on the map, eventually leading to its recognition as an AOC. In the seventy years from post-World War II to this day, annual production has grown from 500 to more than 5000 tons of Beaufort.
Beaufort is produced year-round in three different varieties: Beaufort, Summer Beaufort, and Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage. The standard Beaufort is made from November to May when the cows are in the valleys. They are fed almost exclusively from the past summer’s harvested hay and the first consumer-ready wheels hit the stores at the start of April. Summer Beaufort and Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage are made through different processes during the same period: June to November. For summer Beaufort, the cows graze in the mountain pastures. The Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, however, is the product of one herd that is fastidiously managed, and kept to an undisclosed diet at an elevation of over 1,500 meters. Both Summer Beaufort and Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage have a fruitier taste and more of a yellow color than that of the standard Beaufort.
Recipe Ideas: Beaufort Apple Walnut Muffin
- 250g of flour
- 1 yeast packet
- 2 eggs
- 20 cl of milk
- 200g of Beaufort in strips
- 50g of olive oil
- 100g walnuts
- 1 apple
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350° F
- In a salad bowl, mix the flour, yeast, milk eggs, oil, salt and pepper
- Add the sliced Beaufort, the shelled walnuts and the apple, cut into small cubes
- Fill the ¾ of the muffin shells with the batter and cook for 25 minutes. Check for thorough cook with a knife
- Enjoy hot or at room temperature for breakfast, or accompanied by a salad for an appetizer.