When shopping for the perfect Morbier cheese watch out for labels with “Fabriqué en Poitou” or “Fabriqué en Auvergne.” These are bland and not true Morbiers. True morbier is from Franche-Conté, Jura, or Doubs. It is a semi-soft cheese labeled as “au lait cru,” meaning raw milk (as opposed to pasteurized.) The cheeses from Poitou or Auvergne are imported to caves in Franche-Conté to age the same forty-five days to three months, but are not made in the same way or have the same taste. Look for the stamp of AOC – appellation d’origine controlee for authentication of the cheese you choose.
True Morbier, made since the late 18th century, is a semi-soft cow’s-milk cheese named after a small town in Franche-Conté, north of the Swiss Alps. The cows are exclusively fed on grass and hay. Traditionally it is two cheeses, one from the morning milking of cows, one from an evening milking. In the evening, when there is left-over curd from making a bigger cheese like Gruyère, the curds are placed in a mold and covered with ash from the copper curd making pot so that it does not dry out or be bothered by flies. The next day, left-over morning curds are placed on top to make the next layer of the cheese. These two layers actually taste different making this cheese extremely unique.
Now there are areas where this cheese is made from a single milking and covered with commercial ash, usually vegetable based. They are more mild and not as rich and tasty.
However, true Morbier melts well, and so makes a great grilled cheese sandwich or can be used in fondue. It also makes a terrific ham and cheese sandwich or potatoes au gratin. Pair this cheese with a light fruity red wine like Beaujolais, Gewurztraminer, champagne, or a dry white wine.
Jenkins, Steven, Cheese Primer, Workman Publishing Co., Inc., © 1996, pp. 118-120