Abbaye de Belloc: Behind the Scenes of Trappist Cheesemaking

Today, I am going to share the fascinating process behind one of my all-time favorite cheeses, Abbaye de Belloc. 

In this post, we’ll explore how milk from local sheep flocks is transformed into those irresistible semi-hard wheels. 

I’ll walk you through the steps from curdling to aging, explaining how techniques such as pressing and washing the rind impact the final flavor and texture. 

We’ll also discuss the Trappist monks’ meticulous methods that have produced this delicious cheese since the 12th century.

🧀 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.
🍇 Brought to You by 🍇

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

The Abbaye de Belloc is a semi-hard, Trappist-style cheese made from the raw milk of Manech sheep that graze near the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Belloc monastery in France. The monks follow a meticulous, traditional process of curdling, pressing, brining, and prolonged aging to produce wheels with a distinctive, earthy hazelnut flavor and a firm, elastic texture.

How Is Milk for Abbaye de Belloc Cheese Obtained?

The semi-hard Abbaye de Belloc wheels are made solely from the milk of Manech sheep in flocks local to the French Basque region. 

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.

 The Best French Cheeses in Paris

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

First, raw milk is poured into huge vats, where it is gently heated. 

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.

What Methods Give Abbaye de Belloc Its Distinct Texture and Flavor?

First, monks wash the rind with brine daily, initially, helping form an orange coat that lends a tang. 

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

Abbaye de Belloc cheese has a rich history and is deeply rooted in Basque gastronomy.

• 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. 

After learning about this process, what aspect of Abbaye de Belloc’s production intrigues you the most?

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

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.

Leave a Comment