Fabrice Ruphy and Mathilde Duthier, two young farmers, in their early 30s met whilst studying at The National Diary School in Poisy. I make the precarious journey by coach to meet them.
My last visit was 1,300 meters above sea level. On the heights of Bouchet-Mont- Charvin, the farm of Pezières stands at the foot of the mountain of Sulens. Barely accessible with an SUV, we made the journey in a tour-sized bus, as our skilled driver cautiously drove us up to meet Fabrice Ruphy and Mathilde Duthier, two young farmers in their early 30s.
The couple has 22 cows: Ruphy uses a mobile milking station that milks the cows and pumps into the storage vats. With a 4.30am start and twelve hours between milking, their working days are long, but they don’t count the hours they say. After Ruphy’s first milking of the day, Duthier starts the cheese-making process, first adding natural rennet to the morning’s milk in a deep stainless steel vat located in the cheese-making room. Within less than an hour from cow to processing, life in the form of yoghurt is added to the milk, the bacteria eat away at the sugar.
With a 4.30am start and twelve hours between milking, their working days are long, but they don’t count the hours they say.
This, in turn, produces lactic acid which helps the curd form. The blade slowly cuts through the curd, and Duthier can feel it’s density. She knows when it has reached the correct texture and grain size. However, she says no two days are ever the same, it depends on where the cows have been grazing and what they’re grazing on: this can dramatically alter the process timing and taste. Once she feels the grains are at the right size, the vat is left to stand so the curd falls from the whey: this is when she prepares plastic moulds.
The moulds are washed and lined with cheesecloth, a traditional method, also compulsory as part of the Reblochon production regulations. Then, whey is then poured over the cloth: it adds heat and helps the fermentation process. The cheesecloth’s function is to block the small holes in the moulds so the curd doesn’t drain out, along with the whey. In theory, four litres of milk will make one Reblochon wheel, weighing around 500g.