Boulette d’Avesnes takes its name from the small town of Avesnes-sur-Helpe in the far north of France near the Belgium border. It is a cow’s milk cheese with a long history – and an intense smell and flavour.
How Boulette d’Avesnes is made
Boulette d’Avesnois been made for more than 500 years. In the 15th century, Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Liessies, wrote about a bouille d’ammage or cone of cheese. They also mentioned that August was the ‘time of cones’ as it was usually during this time that the locals would make the cones of cheese. It is made in a distinctive cone shape, which is hand moulded. Legend has it that in the old days, it was made from left-overs of Maroilles cheese, another local cheese with a powerful aroma, which would be left sitting on a windowsill to dry for an entire month. After that, the cheese would be washed in beer, moulded and then left in a cellar for three months.
Today it’s made from Maroilles and flavoured with pepper, tarragon, cloves and parsley. It’s then covered in paprika, which gives it a lovely burnished orange colour. The reason for this was to enable the miners of the north to take the cheese with them to work without it going mouldy.
The rind is washed two to three times a week in salt water or beer. Boulettes can be sold fresh and should be eaten within 30 days, but they can also be matured for up to 3 months.
The Devil’s suppository
It’s a pungent cheese with hints of spice and sour notes with a soft texture. Because of its strong flavour, it goes well with a Belgian beer as well as with gin, or even a robust red wine. It’s also good for making gougères.
Boulette d’Avesnois is nicknamed the ‘suppositoire du diable’ – the devil’s suppository, thanks to its shape and intense red colour!
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Love French cheese? Have a listen to our podcast episode – all about French cheese, the tastiest, weirdest and stinkiest cheeses of France!