It’s an in-your-face luminous orange-red, same-colour-range-as-Campari cheese.
Why is it so very orange?
The colour comes from anato, a natural substance derived from the seeds of a latin American plant. Originally from The Netherlands, later in the seventeenth century the French began to make it too (probably due to a law being passed which prevented them from importing it) – and Lille is now the centre of the Mimolette cheese making industry.
Why is it illegal (well… only in the States)?
It’s the mites that make this cheese illegal, but, at the same time, they are the reason is has its caramelly, toasted-nutty thoroughly wonderful distinctive taste. In addition the mites on Mimolette contribute their own smell (a bit ‘earthy’ apparently), and by eating into the rind they also increase aeration as well as the surface area available for other beneficial microbes.
The hard-working mites munch away at the rind and are then brushed briskly off before it’s put up for sale, but not before it has developed a pitted moon-like surface complete with craters. However the mites are microscopic and since the American Food and Drug Administration insists on a maximum of six mites per square inch this lovely cheese is now illegal in the US.
How old should it be? It’s best eaten crusty and crumbly
The cheese is by far the best when it is mature, at least a year old (when it is called vielle en étuvée). Two year old Mimolette qualifies as très vielle.
How big is it?
The Mimolette cheese is a near sphere, 20cm in diameter and it weighs somewhere between 4-5 kg (somewhere between 9-11 lbs) – it takes a bit of eating – this one is now reduced to its last few slivers after six months (it keeps well!) including enthusiastic help from visiting weekend marauders. It’s a hard cheese, and it gets harder the longer you keep it, so you will need a serious knife to cut it.
Why might it make you fat? You’d have to be determined….
It has a fat content of about 40%… so, like everything, if you eat too much of it, it might make you fat, although it’s not a particular villain in comparison to other cheeses.
So, illegal in some countries, too much would make you fat, but aside from its rude orange colour, there is really nothing immoral to say about it.
Mimolette is easily available all over France, and in the UK at Teddington Cheese.
Alternative to Mimolette
If you can’t get Mimolette, aged (two year old) Gouda is not a bad alternative. Both are excellent eaten with black charcoal hearts.