It is believed Pont-l’Évêque was created by Cistercian monks in the 12th century. In 1225, Guillaume de Lorris, in the Roman de la Rose, wrote: "Good food always included Angelots cheese for dessert". The word Angelot comes from the name of an English coin (the Angel). That cheese was then used as a means of barter, payment and tax!
In 1622, Hélie le Cordier published a poem to the glory of that cheese which people already enjoyed in Paris : "Everyone also loves it since it creates so much art that, young or old, it is only cream". The "Angelot" or "Augelot", in reference to the Pays d’Auge, defines a fat, cylinder-shaped cheese the size of a camembert...
It is only in the 18th century that the name Pont-l’Évêque, from the town located between Lisieux and Deauville was first used. It is sold there on markets. It also took its square shape at that time, especially in order to make the difference with Livarot.
From the 19th century on, the development of the grazing surface and of dairy breeding in Normandy allowed the increase of the production of Pont-l’Évêque, which was made twice a day after each milking. In parallel, the expansion of railway lines helped its sales and recognition outside of its area of production.
In the 20th century, the collection of milk and its transformation were modernized. Breeders, who found a new outlet for milk, tended to give up the production of cheese. Handcraft production, created the century before, started thriving and growing continuously.
In 1970, the Syndicat des Fabricants de Pont-l’Evêque et Livarot applied for the recognition of a Designation Origin, a seal of approval it obtained in 1972. The latest decree detailing the requirement specifications dates from February 8, 2010.
The milk used to make Pont-l'Evêque is exclusively produced in the defined geographical area, and so is at least 80% of the forage fed to the dairy herd. Grassland is preserved with a ratio of at least two acres of meadows for each acre of corn silage fed to the dairy herd.
Grass is favored to feed the cows (with a minimum of 0.8 acres of grass per dairy cow) and grazing is mandatory for at least 6 months during the year. Concentrate feed - other than forage - is restricted to 4000 lb per cow and per year. Finally, particular attention is given to the quality of the feed, following a positive list of authorized feed.
In 2017, in order to provide enough time for farmers to adapt, at least half of the dairy cows shall be of Normande breed.
The milk is collected by dairies and the cold chain is strictly observed, subject to health and safety tests. In the cheese-making facility, located in the designation area, the milk is left to rest for at least 26 hours in order to help it age. The time between milking and renneting shall not exceed 48 hours in the farm and 96 hours in total (72 hours in the case of production from raw milk).
The milk, that may be whole or partially skimmed, shall be poured in vats no larger than 600 liters. Rennet from the maw (abomasum) of the calf (a section of its stomach) is added in order to curdle the milk. The curd obtained is then cut in pieces and stirred, allowing part of the whey to drain by racking. It is then molded in bottomless molds, and straining can start (the curd is regularly turned over).
Decoagulation can take place by cutting cubes (2 cm long) with a curd slicer, then by stirring.
The next day, or the day after that, the cheese is removed from its mold and put on racks to help Geotrichum Candidum yeast and mold appear, a phase called leavening. Between the 2nd and 5th day, the cheese is salted.
The cheese is regularly turned over. Between the 5th and the 10th day, it is sometimes washed in brine, and then brushed. Thanks to this care, the rind, that first appears white, becomes orange colored thanks to the action of yellow/orange pigment, the carotenoids. The paste softens and flavors can develop. Ageing, after the cheese is packed into wooden boxes, will continue in a cellar for at least 18 days and in the case of larger Pont-l'Évêque for a minimum of 21 days.
It takes 3.5 liters of milk to produce a 360 grams Pont-l'Évêque and a month and a half in order to make it wholly creamy.
Eleven cheese-making facilities produced around 2500 metric tons of Pont-l’Évêque in 2013. Five farmers transform the milk of their own herd. The other cheese making facilities collect 22 million liters of milk from over 400 different farmers.
|Grand Pont-l'Évêque||20 cm (7.9") square||> 1200 g (2.6 lb)|
||11 cm (4.3") square||360 g (0.8 lb)|
|Petit Pont-l'Évêque||9 cm (3.5") square||220 g (0.5 lb)|
||11 x 5.5 cm (4.3" x 2.2") rectangle
||180 g (0.4 lb)
Pont-l’Évêque can be enjoyed all year long. According to taste it can be chosen at different stages of refining in order to let it reveal its softness and scent.
Its faces are plane and parallel, the edges are clean, the sides are straight. Acting as an alternative between bloomy rind cheese and washed rind cheese, its rind is slightly seamed, golden to reddish, and it shows a thin white layer (flora). Its paste is yellow with small holes called ouvertures in French.
The cheese shall be smooth and soft, i.e. it should come back to its original shape after it was pressed. Neither sticky nor runny, its paste is soft in the palate, tender, and shall melt in the mouth.
Its strong scent connotes cream, stables and hey.
Its taste is subtle, sophisticated and slightly salted. Its rind delivers flavors of butter and crème fraîche, dried fruit (hazelnut), hey and stable.
It shall be kept in the refrigerator in its original packaging. Take your Pont-l’Évêque out of the fridge and keep it at room temperature one hour before eating. Remove its wrapping fifteen minutes before serving. Cut a triangular section, and enjoy it with or without its rind.
It is generally enjoyed at the end of the meal but can also be served at the aperitif with dried fruit or used for cooking by adding it to delicious recipes: pancakes (crêpes), tartiflette, quiche with leaks or spinach, melted on apple or pear puree…
It is generally advised to marry cheese and drinks from the same regions: Pont-l’Évêque and PDO Poiré de Domfront or PDO Pommeau de Normandie.
Unlike the traditional view that red wine shall be served with cheese, most of cheese is served best with white wine: Chardonnay, Pinot gris or Riesling d’Alsace wines which are a must with Pont-l’Évêque.
Fanatics of red wine shall choose full-bodied wines such as: Pomerol, Saint-Emilion and Graves, Pinots noirs, Bouzy and Volnay.
For teetotallers, Norman pear juice will be perfect. For the adventurous, the combination of Pont-l’Évêque with japanese green tea such as slightly roasted Houjicha will be divine.