What is vacherin?

A vacherin is any of a number of rich, creamy cow's milk cheeses made in France or Switzerland, typically with between 45 and 50 per cent fat.

Choose the best vacherin

All vacherins have slightly different tastes and textures, according to where and by whom they're made.

Vacherin Fribourgeois is made in the Valais region of Switzerland - it is semi-hard, with a coarse, greasy brown rind and a pale yellow paste with a scattering of holes. It has a rich nutty flavour, a little like Italian fontina. When young, it's served as a dessert cheese. The older cheese is good for fondue.

Vacherin Mont d'Or and Vacherin du Haut Doubs are essentially the same cheese, but the first is made with pasturised milk on the Swiss side of the Jura mountains and the second with unpasturised milk on the French side. They have a soft, pale brown rind, with deep, wave-like indentations and a yielding texture. They are packed in a circular spruce box, which both flavours the cheese and keeps it in shape (it can be very runny when ripe). The flavour is rich, a little sweet, with grassy undertones.

Vacherin d'Abondance and Vacherin des Bauges are two other French vacherin cheeses, and are similarly soft and slightly sweet.

How to prepare vacherin

Take the vacherin out of the fridge and allow to return to room temperature before eating so that the flavours and aroma can develop. The semi-hard Vacherin Fribourgeois can be served as it is; alternatively, chop off the rind (which can be discarded), cube and use in fondue.

Soft vacherins should be served very ripe, still in their wooden boxes, with the rind cut off the top - the cheese can be scooped out with a spoon. You can also pour some wine over the top, wrap the box in foil and bake for 20 minutes.

How to store vacherin

Keep vacherin wrapped in greaseproof paper inside a polythene bag, and store in the fridge - that way it should keep for around a week. Don't wrap it in clingfilm, as it will make it sweat, but foil is an acceptable alternative to greaseproof paper.

How to cook vacherin

Serve at room temperature as part of a cheese board; bake or spread on toast. You could try it in place of reblochon in the recipe 'tartiflette'.

Alternatives to vacherin

Try brie, reblochon cheese or camembert.