Both the Dutch and the French claim to be the originators of this cheese. Also called “Boule de Lille” (ball of Lille) or “Vieux Lille” (old Lille), the name Mimolette means “half-soft”, since the cheese was not always well-aged and hard but rather soft to distinguish it from the Dutch commissiekass.
Pays de Loire
- Hard, uncooked pressed cheese.
- 40% fat content.
- Flattened sphere 20 cm in diameter, weighing between 2.5 and 4 kg, with a hard, brittle rind, grey to brown in colour, and an ochre or reddish cheese with occasional holes.
- Production: 4,000 tonnes.
Mimolette may be enjoyed at any time: breakfast, a snack, or after a meal.
It can also be grated and used in the kitchen. On a cheese platter, Mimolette is best accompanied by a robust red wine or even better by Chuche Mourette (a typical northern aperitif) or a strong northern beer.
Deacidified and pasteurised milk is curdled with rennet and inoculated with two kinds of lactic starters. The curd takes in 30 minutes. For this cheese, draining has a distinct rhythm: the stirrers that were turning slowly at the beginning speed up for about 10 minutes. After a short break, a fifth of the whey is removed from the vats. Stirring resumes and continues as a very fast pace for another 15 minutes. The remaining whey is then completely removed and the curd is washed. After a relatively long period of brining (in order to obtain a harder cheese), it is washed.After additional stirring of the curd grains (which are now the size of a grain of millet), the washing solution is removed and the curd is pressed in the bottom of the vat and then cut. The rind is brushed at the end of the ageing process. The cheese is dyed orange with carotenoids. Once moulded, it is then pressed for 24 to 36 hours. Cellar ageing lasts three months, during which time the cheese is regularly turned.
There are two kinds of Mimolette: ones that are made where the cheese is standard, which are intended to be sold young, and ones that are made to keep particularly well, which are intended to be aged for a long time. As with cheeses that are aged for long periods of time, the best Mimolettes are the ones that are made in May or September.
The cheese may be enjoyed at four stages during the ageing process: young, after about three months, half-old, after six to eight months, old, after 12 to 14 months, or extra-old, after 20 to 22 months. Cheese connoisseurs prefer Mimolette that has been aged between 18 and 22 months because it has had the time to develop slightly fruity, nutty aromas during the ageing process.
During the Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678), Colbert supported making a pressed cheese, which was needed to feed the French army. Supplies from the Netherlands had been forbidden as a form of economic retaliation. He required that the cheese be coloured in order to be able to distinguish the two. Since then, the Dutch have made the cheese “à la française” but coat the rind in orange paraffin, while the rind of French Mimolette has stayed natural and a greyish colour. Mimolette production was later developed in areas of consumption near the ports with the most economic exchanges with the Netherlands (Meuse, Normandy, and Bordelais).
Previously only produced in northern France, the region that is still its largest consumer and holds on to the ageing tradition, French Mimolette is today produced in the Calvados and Loire-Atlantique departments, and in eastern France.