In the world of European cheeses, Le Maréchal is a relative newcomer, as cheesemaker Jean-Michel Rapin only started making it in 1992. Mr. Rapin, from Vaud, Switzerland, is an artisan cheesemaker who anticipated consumer desires for authentic, high-quality products long before others. He combined his passion with a team of dairy farmers who set their own ambitious standards to develop and guarantee an original, creamy tasting cheese, and they started producing Le Maréchal.
If you’re a fan of Gruyère or Appenzeller, you’ll want to add Le Maréchal to your cheese palette. You will experience an intensity of flavor from the first bite – a creamy mix of floral, nut and fragrant herbal notes. The flavor is robust and unique. Le Maréchal has more of a savory flavor, more herbal and ever-so-slightly musty. Like some other Swiss cheeses, dried herbs are rubbed onto each wheel as it ages, which is where this subtle herbal flavor comes from.
The Making of Le Maréchal Cheese
Twice a day, every day of the year, 14 dairy producers deliver fresh, still-warm milk to the cheese dairy. There, Mr. Pain and his team transform it into cheese no later than 10 hours after milking, in accordance with their cheese-making traditions. Flax rich in omega 3s (up to 250 g/kg) is added to the cattle feed, particularly during the winter. These essential fatty acids, which aid blood flow, are therefore found naturally in Le Maréchal.
The cheeses are wrapped in cloth before being pressed into molds. A mix of aromatic, organic herbs is dispersed by hand over the surface during treatment and ripening that lasts for a minimum of 120 days. The name Le Maréchal is stamped on the back of every piece and carries its own identification number.
Annual production is now in excess of 300 tons, of which 135 tons are exported, mostly to France, Germany, Benelux, the United States and Canada.
Named for His Grandfather
The cheese is named after his grandfather, Emile Rapin, who lived from 1852 to 1943 in Corcelles-près-Payerne, a village in Broye, Switzerland; he was the blacksmith-farrie, or as they say in French, a "Le maréchal-ferrant." Every wheel of Le Maréchal cheese has a large picture of the grandfather on the label and the cheesemaker says the cheese reflects his grandfather's "original and robust character," especially his abundant mustache which accents his chiseled face and the mischievous look of times gone by.
Enjoying Le Maréchal
The cheesemaker says Le Maréchal can be served "up in the mountains on a picnic napkin" which sounds fantastic - but for those of us who don't live anywhere near a Swiss mountain range, we'll have to settle for eating it at home. Pair it with figs, fig spread or olives and a glass of dry white wine, such as a Chasselas, to bring out its true nature.
In colder weather, revel in the Swiss' skill at providing full-flavored, luxurious melting cheeses and enjoy Le Maréchal in a fondue or raclette.
For me, an oozing grilled cheese sandwich can hit the spot.