Originally from the town of the same name in Normandy, Livarot is a cow’s milk cheese with a washed rind. It is orange in color with a soft consistency and a strong aroma of smoke, hay, and spices. There is some debate as to whether the Livarot or the Pont-l’Evêque is the the oldest cheese in Normandy. It is bound with three to five bands of bulrush (Typha latifolia), a wild plant that grows along the river banks. These dried and cut bands were traditionally used to maintain the shape of the cheese and prevent collapse during maturation.
The milk is collected and then coagulated. The curd is cut and placed in forms. Five different shapes can be used for the cheese. The forms are left to drain and are then brought to 17 degrees to promote fermentation. The cheeses are then removed from the forms, salted, and cleaned at temperatures of 15-19 degrees. Maturation starts at 10-14 degrees in a very damp atmosphere. The cheese is washed a number of times during this period with salted water that spreads Brevibacterium linens cultures that act on the product. If the colour is not vivid enough, rocouyer seeds or achiote (Bixa orellana, a shrub that grows in Latin America and particularly Guyana) are added. The cheese is then bound with the bulrush, called laîche in Pays d’Auge. Livarot, also called “colonel” because of the five bands, changes name depending on the shape: The half cheese is called petit lisieux, and the quarter saint-michel-de-livet or deauville.
Towards the middle of the 19th century, the cheese was the most widely purchased in Normandy. In 1877, 4.5 million were sold whilst only 2 million Camembert were sold. According to Jean Froc, the original Camembert was, in fact, a type of livarot.
Livarot was awarded an AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) in 1975 than an AOP (appellation d’origine protegée) in 1996. Both designations permit the use of pasteurized milk. This means that the taste is standardized, in contrast to raw milk that creates a greater range of distinctive tastes. Raw milk farmhouse (or fermier) Livarot is made with milk from the producer’s own cows. This version is now made by only one dairy, the Domaine Saint Hippolyte in Saint-Martin de la lieue.
Image: © Monica Herrera
Au milieu du XIXème siècle, il est le fromage le plus vendu de Normandie : en 1877, un dénombrement fait état de 4,5 millions de pièces contre seulement 2 millions de camemberts. Selon Jean Froc, le camembert originel, antérieur au camembert que nous connaissons, était lui-même une sorte de livarot : "le fromage de Camembert (Orne) se fait de la même manière" que le livarot (Malepeyre, 1836).
AOC depuis 1975 et AOP depuis 1996, ces appellations autorisent toutes deux le recours à des laits thermisés ou pasteurisés ce qui tend à standardiser un goût sans la palette aromatique d'un lait cru. A priori, le livarot fermier et au lait cru ne serait plus fabriqué que par une seule fromagerie, le Domaine Saint Hippolyte à Saint Martin de la lieue.
Foto: © Monica Herrera