Herve cheese has set the pace for the economic life of the Land of Herve, a region of Wallonia (province of Liège): a flat area crossed by numerous water courses, which was transformed into a vast prairie intended for pasture at the end of the 16th century when, under the rule of Charles V, a ban on all grain exports to the Netherlands was published.
This cheese boasts a long background. In the 16th century, the Duke of Limburg was known to offer it to the military commanders of the passing troops. In the following century, the region’s cheese merchants were given the name ‘Hèvurlins’ and, with their merchandise, arrived as far as Frankfurt and Leipzig.
Until the first half of the twentieth century, over 500 farms were still producing raw-milk Herve cheese, but it was in that period that industrial and standardized productions progressively substituted this tradition. To ensure greater consistency in the quality, along with more effective marketing, a number of merchants decided to start aging cheeses. Thus, little by little, the smaller cheesemakers abandoned this know-how and turned fresh Herve over to the affineurs.
In addition, over the years farmers greatly increased the number of animals, and at the same time gradually abandoned traditional methods of transforming milk into butter or cheese on the farms. The productions – ever bigger – progressively lost their connection with the land, and, with hygiene standards becoming more and more rigid, smaller farms were hit hard.
In 2005 the last producer of the 400-gram rectangular block of raw-milk piquants blancs ceased production. Only two producers defied the trend and continue to this day their raw milk cheesemaking activity.
Herve is a soft, rind-washed cheese made from raw cow’s milk. In the summer the cows graze, and in winter they feed on hay and grass from the surrounding meadows. Two days after the production and the first salting, the rind is rubbed with water (three times a week). This process helps the bacterial flora (Brevibacterium linens) grow over the rind, which is what determines its typical orange color.
Mild Herve is obtained after four weeks of aging. If the aging process lasts for more than three weeks, after a second salting, piquant Herve is obtained. The color of the cheese varies from pale to bright yellow, depending on the milk used, the season in which the milk is collected and the aging process. The fresh type has a crumbly consistency, whereas the more aged cheeses have a creamy texture.
It is a cheese characterized by a penetrating and persistent aroma. In the mouth, it is tempting, rich and irresistible, and the longer the aging period, the more pronounced the spicy aftertaste.
The Presidium strengthens the collaboration between producers and supports them in their dialog with local authorities on the application of hygiene regulations, so that they are suitable for small-scale producers and don’t jeopardize their existence.
Until early 2015 two producers resisted, continuing to make cheese with raw milk: José Munnix and Madeleine Hanssen. Munnix abandoned the production after intervention by the local health authorities which, applying the regulations without taking into account the exceptions for small-scale artisan producers, brought about the closure of the family business. He will continue to participate in the Presidium project, contributing his knowledge and farm.
Battice municipality, Land of Herve, Liège province
rue de Maestricht, 122
tel. +32 87674001
Madeleine Hanssen e Philippe Polinard
La Ferme du Vieux Moulin
Rue sur la Commune, 14
tel. +32 87674286
tel. +32 476969851