Mimolette – the “cheese-mite cheese”

Mimolette is the famous French “cheese-mite cheese” – a term which sends shivers down the spine of the uninitiated and provoked wholly unjustified terror in the case of this journalist for the Kansas City Star!

It’s a round cheese, hailing from the French/Belgium border (near the city of Lille.) Its size is fractionally smaller than a bowling ball and has a rock hard exterior somewhat resembling the craters on the moon. The interior is bright orange, thanks to the addition of annatto – the same colorant also used for gouda.

What’s particular about this cheese is the fact that during the ripening stage, small mites nibble their way inside… 

I use the word mites but if I were to be strictly accurate, the microscopic critters are actually more similar to bed-bugs than they are to mites… but a bed-bug cheese sounds even less appealing!!

Banned, then repealed, before being banned once again, America’s FDA object to the presence of, urm, ‘dust’ from these cheese-mites. The maximum allowed is 6 mites per cubic inch but apparently mimolette is often over that limit.

Watch the mimolette mite/bug through a 100x microscope. These little tikes make their way into the cheese…. but it’s a one way journey. Very different from the casu marzu maggot which are considerably bigger and wriggle their own way out.

Enough of that disgusting talk and let’s move onto the taste!

You can find young mimolette easily enough in French supermarkets. It has the texture of cheddar and it’s soft, inoffensive and actually rather tasteless. That said, it’s a reliable cheese for kids or apéritifs and picnics with people you don’t know particularly well.

If you want the good stuff, however, you need to go for the wheels that have been aged for one or two years. Look for the magic words “mimolette extra vieille.”

By this point the cheese is so rock hard that it’s become quite chewy. Break off a chunk and keep it in your mouth for a few seconds. You can even suck it like a toffee. The flavour is astonishing; butterscotch, hazelnut, toffee… I don’t know of many cheeses which have such a pronounced caramel character.

I love it… and it would appear I’m in good company because mimolette was apparently Charles de Gaulle’s favourite cheese. 

If you can get over the continuous misspelling of extra vieille (didn’t their French teacher ever tell them that vieux becomes vieille because “an old woman has two Is”?) Culture Cheese Mag have a detailed reference page on mimolette.

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Emma Bentley

Wine and Spirits Professional. Sommelier. Glutton. Traveller. Tour Guide and Writer. Trilingual. Find me at www.emmabentleyvino.com

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