Fromage Fort- And Won.

Virgil Evetts

Fromage fort- meaning strong, or possibly fortified cheese- is an exercise in frugality that only the French could have dreamt-up.

Conceived, no doubt as way of using left-over cheese scraps and wine-dregs this ancient Gallic delight is sadly almost unknown to the outside world (it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia listing for cryin’ out loud).

Best described as a very sophisticated, winey cheese spread or dip, fromage fort is reminiscent of the best fondue but without the corn-flour viscosity and key-party connotations. It can be made from pretty much any cheese (but be warned, the blue cheese versions are  not for the faint hearted) and usually has the slightly tingly, almost peppery bite of active fermentation. I’ve made fromage fort  on and off for several years now, and as I’m currently working  through a particularly decent batch,  I thought it was probably about time I share.

Because the main ingredients of fromage fort- cheese and wine- are essentially alive, the finished product is never the same twice. And like both of its parents, fromage fort needs time to fully mature.  This is my favourite sort of food- living, breathing, and quite unpredictable. Come to think of it, that’s my bottom line for people too.

Fromage fort

Fromage fort can be made in any quantity. I don’t use ‘cheese scraps’, simply because such a thing is unheard of in my house. Instead, I buy whatever tasty cheese (cheddar) is on special and use whatever white wine- usually chardonnay- I have on hand. I’ve also made it with my homemade apple wine (no, not cider, but that’s a story for another time…) with great results.

Grate the cheese and using a ratio of 2 parts cheese to 1 part dry white wine, and with a little butter blend to a smooth paste.  Fromage fort should have the consistency of a very thick soup, so don’t hold back on the wine. Pour into a non-metallic bowl and cover with cling film. Store at room temperature and out of direct sunlight for at least 1 week before using. Stir daily.

‘Ripe’ fromage fort is gutsy stuff, with all the best qualities of cheese and wine brought together in a rich, heady brew. It has a slightly granular texture and may look a little like split or broken mayonnaise- don’t despair, this is quite normal.  Generally the alcohol and lactic bacteria (the living part of cheese) content will protect the fromage fort from spoilage for as long as it takes you to finish it off- which if you’re anything like me (consumed with greed)- probably won’t be long.

Serve with very good fresh bread and prepare yourself for some true cheese lovin’.

So at least for my purposes, fromage fort is a means of transforming very ordinary cheese into something quite extraordinary. But when it comes to really good cheese- the stuff that shines all on its own- what are your favourites?

What is your true cheese love?

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8 thoughts on “Fromage Fort- And Won.

  1. My favorite cheese would have to be “vintage Gouda” or maybe “gruyere” oh hang on a minute I love “brie” ahhhh well yes that’s true but I also lurve lurve lurve “feta” oh yeah and I love “Parmesan” with thinly sliced apple…ah and I love “havarti” and also “tasty tasty vintage chedar” oh don’t make me choose I even love cream cheese,,,,choosy cheese chosers always say cheese please when they choose the cheese on the cheese burgers at McDonalds I watched way too much telly as a kid…quite obviously

  2. Pecorino isn’t produced in large volumes in NZ as the sheepy flavour is still a bit too exotic for most kiwi palates. Specialist cheese shops and delis often carry various Italian pecorini including the cracked pepper version.
    I agree it’s very good stuff.

  3. Sorry but anything that remotely resembles blue cheese doesn’t pass through my lips, in a natural state anyway, in the cooked form it is passable. I have an addiction for pepper pecorino but I can’t understand why it is so difficult to get here.

  4. Mozzarella is certainly very mild, but that’s what I like about it. It has a delicate, beautifully milky flavour. It’s a real summer cheese and is best enjoyed with ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and EVO.
    The Clevedon buffalo mozzarella is fabulous stuff, as is their buffalo ricotta and yoghurt. I see a very bright future for this company.

  5. I love cheese. It has been a while since I have been to Europe :( I am hence more familiar with NZ cheeses. I love Aged Gouda too – we are lucky to have Meyer Gouda in the Waikato. I love Kikorangi and Shades of Blue, and have enjoyed the Kaimai Cheese Company Camembert and Brie recently. I also enjoy Parmigiano, Haloumi, Feta, Strong Blue, Good cheddar!! One that’s appeal has escaped me so far is Fresh Mozzarella – I wonder if the imported stuff I tried was past it’s best, and I have yet to try the Clevedon one. It just tasted very bland to me, I know this could be sacrilege!

  6. I too love Taleggio. The first place in Italy I ever visited was Brescia, a small city in Lombardy that nobody ever visits because it’s smack-bang between Milan and Venice and can’t compete with their many charms. Brescia is, however famous for 2 things- some rather decent Roman ruins and Taleggio. Oh how I gorged. It has a lovelly sweetness- despite its often pungent aroma and becomes beautifully runny when ripened.
    I also swoon for ripe, crystal-studded Parmigiano and wont even mention what I’d do for some burrata- very fresh mozzarella filled with fresh double cream.
    BTW I love your blog!

  7. I too love Taleggio. The first place in Italy I ever visited was Brescia, a small city in Lombardy that nobody ever visits because it’s smack-bang between Milan and Venice and can’t compete with their many charms. Brescia is, however famous for 2 things- some rather decent Roman ruins and Taleggio. Oh how I gorged. It has a lovelly sweetness- despite its often pungent aroma and becomes beautifully runny when ripened.
    I also swoon for ripe, crystal-studded Parmigiano and wont even mention what I’d do for some burrata- very fresh mozzarella filled with fresh double cream.

  8. Tallegio is one of my all time favourites, it has depth of flavour but is still surprisingly mild and sweet.
    I also love a good vintage gouda or parmigiano with the crunchy crystals.
    I am not a lover of pungent really ripe and runny cheese. Ed and I went to the enormous world food fair – Sial – in Paris about 9 years ago. A French Master of Cheese mistakenly took me for important (due to my press pass) and was trying to impress me with very strong bries and camemberts. One was so reminiscent of farm yard life that I had to remove it from my mouth and quickly pass it to Ed. All was fine until the Cheese Master went to shake Ed’s hand…..