One of France’s oldest cheeses, Pont-l’Eveque (pohn leh veck) takes its name from a village in Normandy, the region where the cheese originated centuries ago. Pont-l’Évêque is located between Deauville and Lisieux in the Calvados département of Normandy. It is probably the oldest Norman cheese still in production. Historians believe that its early name was Angelot, a cheese mentioned in a 12th-century document as the dessert served at all the best tables.
A washed-rind cow’s milk cheese, Pont-l’Eveque was initially a monastery cheese, made by Cistercian monks from their own cows for their own sustenance. Gradually they began to sell the cheese beyond their walls. This story is a familiar one in Europe, where monasteries have a long tradition of cheesemaking.
Living under rules that forbade meat consumption, monks turned to cheese as a protein source and found that cheese production fit in well with their structured life.
Pont-l’Eveque is an AOC (appellation d’origine controlée, or name-controlled) cheese, so the methods used to make it are tightly defined. Once out of its mold, the cheeses are turned manually every day. They are scrubbed on the seventh day, which gives the rind its distinctive amber color. The cheeses are subsequently transferred to a cellar for one to four weeks to develop their full flavor as they ripen. Its rind is mostly white, with some buff to reddish coloration. The interior is soft to semi-soft and supple, with a few small eyes and a uniform butter color. Depending on the age and condition of the cheese, the aroma can be robust.