Cheese Making at La Village Fromagerie
Last week I published an article on PlumDeluxe about the traditional food products of Normandy and local agritourism. Visiting these cheese factories and apple orchards was one of the highlights of my trip to Northern France! I wanted to give you a closer look at my amazing visit to “La Village Fromagerie” – the E. Graindorge cheese factory in Livarot, France.
The E. Graindorge factory opened in 1910 and has been passed through fathers and sons to the current owner. With the paint literally still drying, I was one of the first visitors to experience the new (and free) self-guided factory tour. Broad overhead walkways with massive windows allow visitors to observe operations. Creative, informational displays and short videos along the way explained each step in the process as well as other, less visible aspects of cheese-making like local milk production and quality control testing.
The day I visited, the facility wasn’t producing curds but I did get to see weighing, wrapping and packaging operations. I was amazed how even in this modern facility, the process was so hands-on. Two women weighed racks of Pont-l’Évêque that had just finished the shaping and pressing stage. Several more women were involved in hand-wrapping wild grass around the edge of the Livarot. Perhaps a tedious task, this iconic grass wrapping is critical to producing “real” Livarot!
The tasting room at the factory was essentially their neighborhood store. We waited to ask questions until after locals bought cheeses as if this was part of their normal grocery shopping. The attendants were more than happy to open up packages for us to try. We tried not only the 4 classic AOC, or locally certified, cheeses but some of the smaller batch, longer aged and very special products. It was so good! Too bad we couldn’t bring anything back to the US!
Perhaps this is a good thing, but the shop didn’t really sell any souvenirs. I would have liked to buy a E. Graindorge serving plate but refreshingly they were all about the cheese.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the cheese tour was finding E. Graindorge’s Pont-l’Évêque in the US! I’ve spotted it at several specialized cheese shops and even once at Whole Foods. Granted the price has gone up (the ~$4 cheese available from the factory was now $13 in the US) but it was still fun to see a cheese in my neighborhood that I know so much about. And who knows, maybe I actually saw this very one being produced in France?
The E. Graindorge cheese factory is located a few kilometers outside of Livarot, France which is approximately 53km southwest of Caen. There are clear signs to the cheese factory from the center of Livarot. Check operating hours online before you arrive because the factory closes to visitors over the lunch hour.