Beaufort is a delicious mountain cheese in the Gruyere family made in France. It is sometimes called the “Prince of Gruyeres” because of the sophisticated creamy flavor. Beaufort has earned itself a protected designation origin, meaning that only cheese produced from Tarentaise cows who are pastured in the summer can be labeled Beaufort. The cheese is often compared to Gruyere and Comte, two other similar cheeses, although Beaufort has a creamier flavor and lacks the characteristic holes that these cheeses possess.
Beaufort has been made for centuries, and is traditionally made in very large wheels which weigh approximately 100 pounds (45 kilograms). The cheese was popular among royalty, and is still popular today among a wide range of consumers who seek after the artisanal cheese. The giant cheeses are aged for eight to twelve months before being brought to market. The most sought after Beaufort comes from the summer milk of the cows, which has strong floral notes that develop over ripening. For this reason, Beaufort is always made from raw milk, as pasteurization will compromise the delicate flavors of the milk.
Beaufort is often found on cheese platters and served with dessert, although it also complements white wine and salmon particularly well. It is also used to make traditional quiches and fondues, where the slightly salty and strongly floral flavor of the cheese is quite distinctive. The cheese tends to be more mild and buttery than other mountain cheeses like Gruyere, and is a semi firm and fairly supple cheese. Beaufort can also be savored in plain wedges, and is popular with bread and fruit as well.
Beaufort is made in large batches, with a single batch making one wheel of cheese. The milk is introduced to rennet and starter cultures and the resulting curds are pressed into giant molds, pressed, and salted. The cheese also has a band strapped around it during the first pressing, which leaves a recognizable impression in the finished cheese. The cheese is pressed to eliminate holes, allowed to set, and then released from the mold and aged in a cheese cave.
Winter Beaufort will be a pale white color, and has a much more subtle flavor, although it still retains the butterfat rich creaminess of the summer cheese. The summer cheese develops a much more yellow to creamy color, and is more flavorful and aromatic. For this reason, most consumers prefer the summer cheese, although the delicate notes of the winter cheese are quite unique.