Bethmale: Unveiling the History and Nuances of the Legendary Pyrenean Cheese
Originating from the scenic Pyrenees, Bethmale cheese stands as a symbol of France’s rich and diverse culinary legacy, crafted from cow’s milk. The essence of this cheese — its history, flavor, and texture — mirrors the captivating landscapes from which it emerges.
Bethmale’s legendary origins trace back over three centuries. Legend tells of King Louis VI, who, during a visit to the Pyrenees, was smitten by a local maiden. As part of their nuptial celebrations, she received a regional cheese, which over time gained fame as Bethmale. While this tale drips with romance, the dairy heritage of the Pyrenees undoubtedly has deep and ancient roots.
- Milk Collection:
The journey of Bethmale commences with the gathering of fresh milk, primarily from cows, though occasionally from goats or a blend of both. This milk is sourced from animals nourished by the verdant meadows of the Pyrenees, endowing the cheese with its signature earthy undertones.
Once collected, the milk is poured into copper boilers and warmed to a specific temperature. It’s at this juncture that rennet, a natural enzyme, is introduced to instigate milk coagulation. Precision in this step is paramount to achieve the desired consistency.
- Curd Cutting:
After coagulation, the curd is delicately segmented into granules using traditional implements like the curd knife. This pivotal stage sets the foundation for the cheese’s texture and demands the expert hand of an adept cheesemaker.
- Pressing and Forming:
The curd is then shifted into intricately designed wooden moulds, granting Bethmale its distinct shape and external patterning. Here, gentle pressing occurs to expel surplus moisture and solidify the cheese.
Post moulding, the cheese undergoes a brine bath or is hand-salted. This process aids in rind formation and intensifies the cheese’s flavor profile.
Bethmale is then escorted to aging cellars, maturing for a minimum of three months. Throughout this period, consistent brushing and rotation ensure its aromatic and flavorful evolution. While three months is standard, some variants are aged even longer, intensifying its palate.
Bethmale boasts an ornate orange rind, accentuated with impressions from its wooden moulds. Internally, it reveals a pale yellow hue complemented by a tender, malleable texture.
Taste-wise, Bethmale is distinguished by its refined complexity. Expect a harmonious blend of sweet creaminess punctuated by undertones of nuts, grass, and hay, culminating in a slightly tangy resonance. Its silken composition dissolves effortlessly, leaving an enduring, delightful aftertaste.
Bethmale’s versatility shines in culinary applications. Relish it atop rye bread adorned with walnuts and orange marmalade, or paired with pears and hazelnuts. It’s equally delightful melted on bruschetta, enhancing escalopes alla pizzaiola, or accentuating summer salads.
- White Wines.
For white wine enthusiasts, a crisp Burgundy Chardonnay, with hints of apple, pear, and a subtle butteriness, complements the Bethmale splendidly. Its inherent acidity and layered flavors resonate beautifully with the cheese’s creamy richness.
- Red Wines.
For those leaning towards red, a vibrant Pinot Noir or a spicy Grenache are impeccable choices. Their robust profiles harmoniously engage with Bethmale’s lusciousness without overshadowing it.
- Regional Wines.
- If you want to stay true to the Pyrenees region, you might look for a Jurançon sec, a dry white wine with floral and citrus notes, or a Madiran, a full-bodied, tannic red wine from the southwestern region of France.