Region: Brittany, France
Milk: Pasteurized Cow’s milk
SAFR Port Salut is smooth, delectable cheese made in the province of Brittany on the west coast of France. The countryside of Brittany is bordered by the ocean, boats and fish, and is steeped in coastal weather extremes. It has been said that Brittany is more influenced by England than its own motherland. It also happens to be great dairy territory – it’s responsible for 20% of France’s entire cattle raising, produces 20% of its milk and 33% of its butter.
Port Salut (pronounced POOR sah-LEW) has an honourable past and fascinating history. Originally named Port du Salut after the abbey of Notre Dame du Port du salut at Entrammes, it was produced in the mid 1800’s by Trappist monks, strictly for consumption at the monastery. A visit to Paris by the head of the abby in 1873 resulted in an opportunistic distribution agreement with a Parisian cheese seller. A year later sales of this disc shaped cheese were phenomenal – enough to incline the monks to register Port du Salut as a trade name to guard against imitations. It has also been said the origin of Port Salut is closely linked to the French Revolution of 1789. Escaping from the persecutions of the “Terror,” a congregation of Trappist Monks set themselves up abroad and learned how to make cheese for their very survival. Upon returning to France in 1815 they built a new abbey and continued to their cheese production. The name later became the registered trademark of the Société Anonyme des Fermiers Réunis for Saint-Paulin which is what the SAFR stands for.
Though Port Salut has a mild flavour, it sometimes has a strong smell because it is a mature cheese. The smell increases the longer the cheese is kept — this however does not affect its flavour. It can be refrigerated and is best eaten within two weeks of opening though its fragrance can permeate your refrigerator as an incentive to consume sooner rather than later.
The rind of the cheese is slightly moist and colored, with regular traces of the plastic-covered cloth used in production. Affinage (refining) takes one month as the cheese is polished with brine, which also contributes to its rich flavour. The result is an exquisite cheese with an orange rind and pale-yellow interior. Port Salut pairs beautifully with Red & White Burgundy, American Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay wines. It’s also a perfect partner for fruit and makes any cheese board more lusciously tempting.