Abbaye de Citeaux, The Soon-To-Be-Forbidden Cheese


I was wary of getting an iPhone because I didn’t want to be so reachable. With just a plain, ordinary cellphone I get enough calls; with an iPhone I’d also get buzzed every time I got an e-mail. And with all the PR e-mails I get to my Amateur Gourmet e-mail address that’s a lot of buzzing.

But get an iPhone I did and though the frequent PR buzzing in my pocket is distracting, every now and then an e-mail comes through that I’m glad I got right away. Case in point: last Friday, I got an e-mail from Murray’s Cheese that said the following…

“Most foodies have come to understand that for legal sale in the U.S. a raw milk cheese must be aged for a minimum of 60 days. That’s been on the books since 1949. What most people don’t realize is that raw isn’t the only issue. The 60 day cut-off exists because the FDA has determined that potentially harmful pathogens can’t survive past that point. Or can they? The law for import is, in fact, that a cheese must be aged for a minimum of 60 days AND must contain no more than 67 percent water. Sure, you’re used to Camembert and Epoisses being pasteurized, but has anyone noticed that Reblochon dropped off the U.S. market a few years ago? You can’t find it anywhere, though some retailers will sell the firmer, drier Fromage de Savoie (invented precisely to fill this gap in the export market) with the Reblochon name. What irony. The qualities that make it so desirable put it out of reach. That high moisture content gives a creamy, luxurious texture and the raw milk lends it complexity and depth.

“In 2008, we’ve been bitten by this little known regulation and have been unable to import some of our favorite seasonal raw milk cheeses like Chevrotin and Chabichou du Poitou, even though they are aged past 60 days especially for Murray’s, because that moisture content is simply too high. This week we learned we’re about to lose another from our portfolio of truly singular, raw milk, farmstead French cheeses. The fabulous Abbaye de Citeaux, made by a single Burgundian monastery.”

Lose a cheese? From a Burgundian monastery? Only a few wheels left? Thank God for my iPhone: I was just two blocks away from Murray’s when I got the e-mail and I charged over there with all the passion of recently converted cheese-liker (I used to hate cheese) with a boyfriend who LOVES cheese and whose parents LOVE cheese and whose parents were staying with us in our apartment and who would love to try a soon-to-be-forbidden cheese.

I told the counter person I’d gotten the e-mail about the soon-to-be-forbidden cheese and she had no idea what I was talking about.

“It must’ve just gone out,” she said. “Because I haven’t seen it.”

I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket and showed her and she said, “Oh: the Abbaye de Citeaux. We have it right here.”

I bought 1/4 pound (or was it 1/4 of a wheel? I don’t remember) and rushed it home. That night I placed it down for my cheese-loving guests and told them the story of the cheese.

“This cheese is made by monks in Burgandy,” I said, improvising off the label…


…”and it’s about to be illegal in the US because of its water content.”

“Oooooh,” said my audience and then they all dug in and devoured the cheese.


The cheese, like most raw milk cheeses, had a lovely pungency that wasn’t too overwhelming. It was creamy (because of its water content) and complex in the way that most things that come from France are complex, like Celine Dion. Or is she from Canada?

It’s a shame that the FDA is so uptight that we can’t have creamy cheeses from Europe anymore. If I were you, I’d hurry over to Murray’s Cheese (or whatever quality cheese store is near your house) and buy up whatever’s left. It’s a taste you won’t get to taste again soon unless you leave the country. Hurry hurry!

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