Forget Roquefort, Bleu d’Auvergne and Fourme d’Ambert. I’ve found a new blue cheese to try: Pavé Bleu. Trouble is, I can’t find it anywhere.
I wouldn’t mind but it’s produced not far away. It comes from Le Quesnoy, south-east of Lille in the Nord département.
The cheese was created in 2013 at the town’s agricultural college using milk from the local Bleue du Nord cow. It came about thanks to some EU funding from the Interreg programme for a project in northern France and neighbouring Belgium.
The aim was to encourage farmers to raise this breed of cow, which had been in decline for the past 70 years or more and was at risk of dying out. By making a cheese from its milk, voilà, you have demand for the cow too.
Measuring about 8cm across and about 4cm high, the cheese is soft and creamy and comes with a grey-blue bloom on the outside. It is pierced 29 times to generate its signature blue-grey flecks inside.
“Such has been the success of Pavé Bleu that college chiefs say they could give up producing any other cheeses”
The cheese is generally understood to be the only blue cheese from Hauts-de-France. (The country’s other well-known blue cheeses are from further south: Roquefort is made in Occitanie, and Bleu d’Auvergne and Fourme d’Ambert are both from Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.)
The problem, however, is in the supply, not the demand. Just 240 Pavé Bleu cheeses are made each week at present.
Getting the blue right is tricky to master, apparently.
Such has been the success of Pavé Bleu that college chiefs say they could give up producing any other cheeses. To get hold of one, it’s advised to go to the college shop directly.
Trust me, despite it being 70km away, I haven’t ruled that out as a possibility.
Photo: Stéphane Dubois, director of the farm at the lycée in Le Quesnoy, © Lycée agricole du Quesnoy