Abbaye de Belloc: Behind the Scenes of Trappist Cheesemaking

Abbaye de Belloc Cheese: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Monastic Tradition

Abbaye de Belloc cheese, made by Trappist monks using local Manech sheep milk, undergoes traditional curdling, pressing, brining, and aging. This process, alongside unique feeding practices for the sheep, contributes to the cheese’s earthy, hazelnut flavor and firm texture. Monks’ meticulous methods preserve ancient cheesemaking traditions while ensuring distinctive taste.

How Is Milk for Abbaye de Belloc Cheese Obtained?

This rare breed produces high-fat milk that imparts Abbaye de Belloc’s distinctive flavor. 

The animals graze on the nutrient-dense grasses of coastal marshes and upland meadows, which impacts the quality of their milk. 

The cheese has a delightful hazelnut sweetness when made from summer milk, and the sheep munch on wild herbs. 

The monks gently shear the sheep themselves during the hot months for the animals’ welfare. 

They follow conscientious principles, such as keeping flock sizes manageable.

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What Steps Are Involved in Transforming the Milk into Curds and Whey?

Then, monks add rennet to begin separating the curds and whey. 

Timing and temperature are everything when coagulating the curd. 

The compacted curd makes a denser cheese compared to soft, moist curd. 

The curd knits together as it acidifies, forming a big mass that gets sliced into smaller cubes with harps. 

After stretching out over several hours, the curd is manually pressed to expel whey. 

This traditional hands-on process makes a noticeable difference in the cheese’s distinctive texture.

🧀 The Tasty Timeline of Abbaye de Belloc Cheese 🧀
12th CenturyBeginning of the cheese production by the Benedictine monks at the Abbaye de Belloc.
14th CenturyRise in popularity and expansion of distribution to nearby regions.
18th CenturyFurther refinement in the production process, enhancing the cheese’s unique flavor.
20th CenturyGlobal recognition and increased export to various countries.
TodayAbbaye de Belloc cheese remains a cherished delicacy, with modern production techniques staying true to ancient traditions.
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What Methods Give Abbaye de Belloc Its Distinct Texture and Flavor?

The wheels get rubbed, turned, and brushed for months in the monastery’s caves. 

This attentive rind care develops Abbaye de Belloc’s mellow, earthy flavors and crunchy exterior.

The wheels also rest on spruce boards, which impart a light woodiness. 

During aging, moisture still evaporates, concentrating the flavor.

The interior of French cheese

My Thoughts

• It originates from the Benedictine abbey in the village of Belloc, located in the Pyrenees Mountains.
• The cheese is made by monks who have dedicated themselves to perfecting their craft over centuries.
• Only the finest milk sourced from neighboring farms is used in the cheese-making process.
• The traditions and techniques of making Abbaye de Belloc cheese have been passed down through generations.
• Local families play a crucial role in maintaining these traditions and contributing their knowledge to production.
• Each wheel of Abbaye de Belloc cheese carries the essence of Basque culture and culinary heritage.

Knowing the details behind Abbaye de Belloc’s time-honored cheesemaking methods can help you better appreciate the care and craftsmanship that go into each wheel. 

You may also be interested in learning about another French cheese, and why it is banned in America!

What do you think is the importance of preserving such ancient culinary practices in our modern world?

Let us know in the comments below!

A French monastery


What aging techniques make Abbaye de Belloc cheese special?

Wheels of Abbaye de Belloc cheese are carefully aged in a controlled environment that maintains ideal temperatures and humidity. They are regularly turned and brushed to develop the distinctive rind and complex flavors that emerge over months of aging.

How long is Abbaye de Belloc cheese aged?

The standard aging time is around three months, but select batches are aged for extended periods to intensify the depth and complexity of flavor.

Can you eat Abbaye de Belloc cheese right after it’s made?

No, Abbaye de Belloc needs dedicated aging time for the flavors to fully develop. It’s not meant to be eaten immediately after production. Proper aging is essential to achieving the cheese’s renowned taste and texture.

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