La Fourme d’Ambert is a blue-veined cheese. It is produced in Auvergne at an altitude of between 600 to 1,600 metres, in the mountainous region of Puy-de-Dôme, in 5 cantons of the Cantal and in 8 Loire communes. The richness and biodiversity of this region give the cheese its subtle and delicate aroma.
The production conditions – from feeding of livestock to regulations on manufacture and aging – are defined by specifications and regulated by an independent body. In particular, cows must be set out to pasture for a minimum of 150 days per year. In winter, their fodder must come exclusively from the region of denomination. The use of GM products and palm oil are prohibited.
La Fourme d’Ambert’s veining (the blue stain) is achieved by infusing the milk with a fungus, the Penicillium Roqueforti, which requires space and oxygen to grow. Strongly anchored in the Massif-Central, the Penicillium Roqueforti is a fungus deriving from rye, a grain that was very widely produced in the Auvergne. This fungus needs air to develop within the cheese’s core.
Manufacture, therefore, consists of specific stages such as the creation of curd granules and piercing the cheeses with long needles to create oxygenating pathways so the blue veins can develop. There are hundreds of strains of Penicillium; in the case of La Fourme d’Ambert, specific strains are selected to create a mild and smooth essence, and also give the cheese its pretty sky-blue colour.
Once the milk has been delivered and its quality checked, the manufacturing process can begin :
- Milk preparation, adding of Penicillium Roqueforti.
- Curdling: the milk coagulates thanks to the rennet’s natural effect.
- Vat work: cutting, stirring for approximately one hour to form curd granules, which are like small balls with a firm surface. Open spaces are created between the balls for the moulding process to take place.
- Poured into casts with the help of a cloth to preserve the curd granules.
- Straining in a warm room. The cheeses are turned multiple times during a 24 to 48-hour period (cheeses are not pressed so that the open spaces are maintained).
- Hand salting of the surface, with dry salt or brine.
- Piercing: from the 4th day after renneting, aeration paths are created by using long needles to carry air into the heart of the cheese so that blue mould can develop.
Finally, the fourmes are taken to the maturing cellars. The cheese cannot be called Fourme d’Ambert until after the 28th day.