On the outskirts of a rural town called Livarot France in southern Normandy lies Le Village Fromagerie or otherwise known as Graindorge. What you’ll find at this charming cheese farm is a wealth of knowledge about cheese making, as well as a delightful array of cheese to taste. The Graindorge cheese dairy includes the following cheese offerings, some more known than others: Livarot, Pont l’Eveque, Camembert of Normandy and Neufchatel.
Before you taste however, you’re taken through an educational tour of the facility, which shows you exactly how the cheese is made, walking you through the process step-by-step.
The dairy prepares its PDO cheese from milk from grass-fed Norman dairy herds. They encourage dairy farmers to breed mainly Norman cows because of the simple fact that Norman cows are known for their quality in making and maturing PDO cheese in Normandy and to keep a well-adapted breed in the area it belongs to. Makes sense!
They grass feed their cattle and barely add many supplements to their meals because they feel it is more natural for the animals. The Graindorge dairy farm collects milk from 160 dairy farmers in the region in order to support as many local farms as possible.
The process is fascinating. Starting with the milk, they use something called calf rennet to coagulate the milk, causing it to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). The curd is gently sliced to produce a huge quantity of small cubes. Then, the curd is poured into the molds and spread by hand before it is drained and tossed and turned multiple times.
The cheeses are turned out by hand, steeped in brine and then placed in the “haloir”, a French name used for the cool and humid cave that is used to let the cheese ripen. In the “haloirs,” ventilation and temperatures are under control — the cheese ripens from the outside in, over the course of several weeks. The Livarot cheese is bound with carex (bulrish/reed called ‘laiche’ in French), representing five stripes as on the sleeve of a military uniform. The cheese then goes through quality control as the final stage to make sure each one has the right shape, appearance, weight, texture, firmness, softness and so on.
100 years baby – that’s some very old cheese and yes, it’s really as tall as I am.
Born in Normandy at the end of the Middle Ages, Livarot cheese was probably first called “Cherub”, a name given to regional cheeses at the time. It was then named after the town of Livarot, home to one of the largest local markets where cheese was sold and later, where Eugene Graindorge made white Livarot cheese as far back as 1910, which is the foundation of the dairy farm. Out of all the cheeses I tasted, Livarot was my favorite…
Outside in its ever so charming gift shop, you’ll find books and other gifts on Normandy and all things dairy. Think it is the celebration of the cow! It was adorable and there were plenty of options for kids as well. Here you can also sample cheese, buy cheese and delicious homemade jams and jellies.
Le Village Fromager / Graindorge
42 Rue du General Leclerc
14140 Livarot, Normandy
Be sure to check out our Brittany/Normandy food & wine section (and posts), as well as our general section on Brittany/Normandy. And, of course for the passionate about all things France, we have quite a bit of content in our France section as well as Paris.
Note: My trip was hosted by the French Tourism Board, however all opinions expressed are entirely my own.