Tête de Moine
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Tête de Moine is a type of cheese manufactured in Switzerland. It was invented and initially produced more than eight centuries ago by the monks of the abbey of Bellelay, located in the community of Saicourt, district of Moutier, in the mountainous zone of the Bernese Jura, the French-speaking area of the Canton of Bern.
Traditionally, the cheese is prepared for eating in an unusual way: the cheese loaf is carefully scraped with a knife to produce thin shavings, which is said to help develop scented flavours by allowing oxygen to reach more of the surface.
There are two explanations for the origin of the name Tête de Moine, which translates literally as "Monk's Head". The name was first documented in the records of Mont-Terrible, a Department established by the French when they annexed the region from 1793 to 1799 at the time of the French Revolution. The first theory is that it is a mocking name bestowed by French occupation soldiers who compared the method of serving the cheese to shaving the top of a skull to create a monk’s tonsure. The second explanation is based on tales from the Jura region which refer to the number of cheese loaves stored at the cloister “per tonsure”, or per resident monk.
Writings from 1292 attest that the cheese of the abbots of Bellelay had acquired such a reputation that it was used to pay the royalties of the stockbreeders to the farms' owners, to regulate litigations, being offered as presents to the prince-bishops of Basel, or even as currency.
The cheese contains cow milk vintage and entirety, i.e., a cheese with half-cooked or half-hard pressed paste. Its average weight is 850 g, but some can go up to 2.5 kg. It is characterized by a cylindrical form of which the height accounts for 70 to 100% of the diameter. It is excellent with dry white wine, after being matured for a minimum of 2½ months on small spruce plank.
Since May 2001, it has enjoyed an "Appellation d'origine contrôlée" (AOC). Exported throughout the world, it is the name card of the cheese-making tradition of the Swiss Jura. Tête de Moine is currently produced by fewer than 10 cheese dairies of the Jura Mountains area of Porrentruy, District of Franches-Montagnes, both situated in the Canton of Jura, as well as in Moutier and Courtelary, in the Bernese Jura.
In 1982 the Girolle was invented, an apparatus which makes it possible to make “rosettes of Tête de Moine” by turning a scraper on an axle planted in the center of the cheese. This apparatus gave an additional impulse to the consumption of this cheese.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tête de Moine.|
- Tête de Moine in the online Culinary Heritage of Switzerland database.
- Tête de Moine website
- Fromages Spielhofer SA, Fromagerie de St-Imier - a Tête de Moine cheesemaker
- History of the Girolle