As part of our visit to the SIRHA delicatessen trade fair in Lyon, we recently paid a visit to our cheese supplier Paccard. The family business with 12 employees is based near the picturesque village of Manigod in Haute Savoie, which can be reached by car via serpentine roads.
Although we did not register, the chef, Jean-François Paccard, took a lot of time with us. For an hour he took us through all the maturing cellars and showed us the various other departments where the very fresh cheeses are delivered or prepared for shipment. The icing on the cake was a tasting of different cheeses, with which we were given a glass of Crémant de Savoie to celebrate the day – it was Philippe's birthday.
But let's start at the beginning: The fromagerie Paccard is located in the heart of the "vallée des Aravis" at around 1,000 meters above sea level. The company was founded in 1990 by Joseph Paccard. Today it is managed by his two sons, Jean-François and Bertrand. All Savoie cheeses are refined and sold in a four-storey traditional wooden house that nestles so cleverly on the slope that each floor has its own driveway: Reblochon, Tomme and Tommette, Chevrotin, Abondance, Beaufort and many others. The Paccards obtain the fresh cheeses from around 30 farmers from the vallée de Thônes and from small artisanal cheese dairies from Haute-Savoie, who deliver their blanks every day.
With the conscious decision to support small producers, the Paccards contribute to strengthening the local economy and environmental protection in the region, since small producers pollute the environment less than large companies. In addition, the heat from the cooling systems is used to obtain hot water and no chemical cleaning agents or disinfectants are used in the entire process of affinage and maintenance of the systems.
This diligence at all levels pays off: since Paccard first took part in the national competition for food producers in France, the Concours Général Agricole de Paris, in 1993, their cheeses have received multiple and regular awards. Overall, Paccard has 15 gold medals, 11 silver medals and 6 bronze medals for Reblochon, Chevrotin and Abondance to date.
The affinage of Reblochon, Chevrotin and Manigodine takes place on the second floor of the house in three consecutive aging cellars that all these cheeses pass through one after the other. Here they lie on special pine cheese boards in a different atmosphere depending on the stage. They remain in the first chamber with high humidity for around 7 to 10 days and are washed there twice with a solution of water and annato. There is no general rule according to which, for example, all cheeses on shelf 2, shelf 5 would be ready for relocation to the second chamber after X days. Instead, each cheese is inspected and assessed individually every day - among other things, this dedication and patience characterizes real traditional craftsmanship.
The cheeses go into the second, slightly drier room when they no longer lose any liquid. Here they continue to mature, but are not washed again. In the third room there is again a humid atmosphere. This will add moisture to the cheese again so that it melts nicely on the inside.
The Manigodine (a type of larger Reblochon that was originally intended for export to the USA and Canada and only comes onto the market after 60 days of maturity) and the Chevrotin (a type of smaller Reblochon made from goat) are stored together with the Reblochons.
The Manigodine is washed a total of 6 times, the Chevrotin 2 times. All cheeses are turned daily. This is done so that the moisture is evenly distributed and the cheeses don't stick to the board.
The hard cheeses such as Abondance, Beaufort etc. and the Tommes and Tommmettes mature one floor below. It smells strongly of ammonia here. This is a side effect of the breakdown of the milk proteins, which takes place in all cheeses, but is sometimes more or less clearly noticeable. After a few first astonished and hesitant breaths, which almost take your breath away, you quickly get used to the smell.
After visiting the cheese cellars, Jean-François showed us the more logistical area where the cheese is prepared for shipping and export.
And then we went to a kind of "parlor" with a beautiful view of the valley, where we were able to taste a few cheeses to round off the visit: two Reblochons from different manufacturers, a manigodine, a goat raclette, a tommette de brebis (sheep) and a Persillé de Tignes made from goat's and cow's milk.
Jean-François opened a bottle of Crémant de Savoie especially for us and we enjoyed it. All cheeses were fantastic, although the goat raclette tasted a bit bland. As is so often the case when something is really, really good, all conversation suddenly fell silent and gave way to a blissful silence.
Strengthened like that, we made our way back, with many lasting impressions and the idea of organizing a “Journée Savoyarde” in autumn. When the time comes, we will of course keep you informed.
Thank you, Jean-François Paccard and you are welcome in Savoie or in Berlin!
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