Tête de Moine Swiss Cheese. 800g sold individually. Tête de Moine, which translates as “monk’s head” is a type of cheese manufactured in Switzerland. It was invented and initially produced more than eight centuries ago by the monks of the Abbey of Bellelay. This is located in the community of Saicourt, district of Moutier, in the mountainous zone of the Bernese Jura. This is consequently the French-speaking area of the Canton of Bern.
The cheese is made from unpasteurized, whole cow’s milk and is a semi-hard cheese. It is cylindrical in shape, with a height typically equal to 70 to 100% of its diameter. The average weight of a single cheese is 800g. It is aged for a minimum of 2½ months on a small spruce plank and is typically paired with a dry, white wine.
Serving Tete de Moine Cheese
The cheese is made from cow’s milk and half-cooked or half-hard pressed paste. After that, the cheese is traditionally prepared for eating in an unusual way: the cheese is carefully scraped with a knife to produce thin shavings. This is said to help develop the odour and flavour by allowing oxygen to reach more of the surface. The cheese develops its scented flavours effectively only when it is scraped. So, to enjoy the best taste, a tool called ‘Girolle’ was invented in 1982. In other words, the scraper attached to the central axis of the apparatus makes scraping the cheese easier!
Tete de Moine is mainly used as an enhancement or garnish to salads. In addition, the cheese is also excellent with spiced cooked meats or similarly as an enhancement to recipes that require a robust cheese taste. Likewise, Tete de Moine is a good companion of crisp white wines such as Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay.
History of Tete de Moine
There are two explanations for the origin of the name Tête de Moine, which translates literally as “monk’s head”. The name was first documented in the records of Mont-Terrible, a Department established by the French. This was when they annexed the region from 1793 to 1799 at the time of the French Revolution. The first theory is that it is a mocking name bestowed by French occupation soldiers. They compared the method of serving the cheese to shaving the top of a skull to create a monk’s tonsure. The second explanation is based on tales from the Jura region which refer to the number of cheeses stored at the cloister “per tonsure”, or per resident monk.
Texts from as far back as 1192 attest to the cheese-making skill of the monks of Bellelay. Over time, the cheese was used by tenant farmers as payment to landowners, as well as figuring in legal settlements. Therefore These were offered as a gift to the prince-bishops of Basel, and even serving as a currency.
Tête de Moine has appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) status. In 2013, it was replaced by the appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) certification.