The Ferme Girard, Abondance's cheese farm, is located close to FranceComfort AlpChalets Portes du Soleil. 60 farmers ensure the production of the well-known Abondance cheese is taken care of. This cheese is only produced in the Abondance Valley and has a very special and unique taste. It is one of the 44 French cheeses that carry the red-yellow European AOP quality mark.
Monastery cheese in the Abondance valley
The history of cheese in the Abondance Valley has been linked to the history of the abbey of Abondance since the 11th century. The monks urged the farmers to do more manual work and make products from the milk in order to obtain more yields. At the end of the 14th century, the cheese became famous after it was served in Avignon during the election of Pope Clement VII. It was an instant success resulting in the Abondance Valley becoming the official cheese supplier. Shortly after the cheese was given a place on the tables of the Court of Savoy and the tables of other wealthy people. In fact, it became so well-known and of value that it became something people could exchange when cash was scarce.
The Abondance cow in the French Alps
For more than 15 centuries, the Abondance cow has grazed on the mountain pastures of Portes du Soleil in the French Alps. The cows live at an altitude between 1300 and 1800 meters and can be recognized by their inseparable bell and their white head with brown around the eyes and pale horns. The cows are milked in the traditional way twice a day. The fact that they live in the Alpine meadows is the secret to the delicious taste of the Abondance cheese, it all comes down to the herbs that grow on the mountain pastures where the cows graze.
Visit the cheese farm during the holidays
During your holiday you must visit the Girard family farm. Part of the farm is just like a museum and exhibits all kinds of old tools that were used to make cheese. Guided tours are given throughout the year. During the winter you can visit the cows in the stables. In the summer they wander the Alpine meadows and you can encounter them during your walks.
During this tour the tour guide explains the production process from unpasteurized milk to cheese in a fun way. The manufacturing is done by hand and is very labor-intensive. This process takes place as follows. First, the curd must be separated from the whey and is then formed into round cheeses with a press. Then they are salted in a brine bath and must ripen for 3 to 10 months in a cheese cellar with a constant temperature of 10 degrees. Every day these cheeses are twisted and a saltwater solution is rubbed into them. It takes about 10L of milk to make 1kg of Abondance cheese.
European AOP quality mark for Abondance
The Abondance cheese has the AOP quality mark "Appelation d'Origine Controlée" since 1989. In order to be allowed to have this quality mark, the cheese must meet several criteria. One of these criteria, for example, is that the cheese can only be made from the milk of three breeds of cows: the Abondance, Tarine and Montbéliarde breed, and 60% of the cows must be Abondance cows. The cheese is made all year round, but the best cheese is made from milk collected during the summer. Abondance cheese is characterized by a special fruity and nutty aroma. In the cellars of La Ferme Girard there are 2000 cheeses ripening. These are made from the milk of the 35 cows that the farmer has. In addition, there are 60 farmers who produce this cheese in the Abondance valley. The demand for the cheese is high, local restaurants and hotels use the cheese daily.
During your visit to the cheese farm you can attend various workshops, there are even workshops for children. Children learn to make cheese themselves and can take it home with them. For adults there are activities such as cheese tastings, complemented by a wine tasting. Before you leave the farm you can buy cheese to take with you in the farm shop. Perfect for complementing your cheese board and enjoying on your balcony of your luxury apartment overlooking the Abondance valley.