This cheese has come a long, long way, it is fair to assume that it was already made and sold back in the Middle Ages, in the backward villages of lovely Normandy. It is in fact mentioned in documents published in 1560 and 1588, a square thing, strong and spicy, it used to have a washed rind, a croûte lavée, displaying flashy orange colours. Nowadays, producers have modified their procedures, there’s an argument about it, but there’s still only one cheese in the world called
It obtained the AOC label in 1972, 5 farm-house producers are left and 7 more or less industrial production sites, they have a combined output of 3000 tons per year and share a website. The standard square piece measures around 11 cm, there’s a smaller, “petit” Pont l’Evêque with an edge length of around 9 cm, a “demi” and a “grand” but size doesn’t matter too much in the end. They’re all made with cow’s milk, mostly pasteurized nowadays, I imagine there’s a black market going for the real raw milk fare.
The pieces ripen for at least 2 weeks and I agree with cheese master Pierre Androuet who deplores the fact that the producers don’t wash the rind any longer but treat their cheese almost like a Camembert or something, bringing on monilium bacteries to get sort of a bloomy crust. Androuet says, by doing so the producers have created a cheese too bitter to be really pleasant. I’m not sure whether I share this observation but I have to admit that the Pont l’Evêque is one of the rare great French dairy products that I only respect but do not love – at all.
In fact, I hardly ever buy it but I encourage you to still consider trying it. Who knows, maybe your palate reacts different to this cheese and you find a new culinary friend. And you can play around with him: it’s a product I could imagine being accompanied by a glass of Calvados. I wouldn’t know any wine that fits, Cidre could be nice or even beer.
For the video, I haven’t really found something telling about this ancient cheese. Here’s one coming from the tourism office. The pictures of Normandy landscapes are pretty – and true.