Raclette – France’s winter cheese tradition20-02-2017
Every year, large numbers of French people eagerly wait for the thermometer to drop below zero to savour this traditional mountain dish, which has now secured its place in French cuisine across the country.
Raclette is a firm, cow’s milk cheese and also the Savoyard dish created in its honour. It derives its name from the French word “racler”, to scrape, as once heated, the melted cheese is scraped off and ready to savour with various accompaniments. It is a popular dish in France all year round.
Obviously we sell more raclette cheese from September to March, but our customers enjoy it throughout the year, whether it’s during a sudden cold spell like last June, which resulted in a 60% sales uplift, or simply because it is primarily a very sociable dish perfect for sharing,” explains Sophie Lopez, RicheMonts Group Product Manager.
Raclette is attracting new supporters every year, reflected in the fact that it is currently the nation’s third most popular dish (Source: Expedia.fr, Semaine du Gout). In 2016, RicheMonts, France’s raclette cheese market leader, was responsible for 88% of total volume sales, that’s 1,200 tonnes sold over the counter and 714 tonnes pre-packed.
The revolutionary raclette grill
Raclette undoubtedly owes its success in France to the RicheMonts brand. Despite its Swiss origins, raclette has weaved its way into French cuisine thanks to an opportunist RicheMonts employee who fell in love with Swiss raclette, during the early days of the company in 1973. Once back in his native France, he was keen to share his culinary find with his family and friends; and for raclette and RicheMonts, the rest is history. The company soon began fabricating round raclette cheese moulds which they distributed to alpine cheesemakers, together with the famous “rampe à fromage”, the official brand name for the raclette grill. Given the upsurge in interest in alpine raclette, RicheMonts decided to roll out its services to supermarket cheese counters. The company subsequently came up with the idea of renting out the raclette grill in exchange for cheese sales. Raclette was no longer the preserve of the French mountains, but now available the length and breadth of the nation. In 1975, Tefal and RicheMonts joined forces to develop the first domestic raclette grill, extending its usage to all. This was revolutionary in its day.
Today, raclette cheese has PGI status, (the highly sought-after label which guarantees you are buying a premium quality product), and is sold to cheesemongers and supermarkets under various brand names. The success of Raclette cheese has transcended boundaries.
The perfect serve
The classic way to enjoy raclette would be with the traditional raclette grill, as found in alpine restaurants. For a more affordable option, raclette grills are also available that can be placed directly on the table. Slices of raclette cheese are placed on individual trays, where they melt and are ready to serve with an array of dried meats, vegetables and potatoes. Raclette also works well with Comté cheese, blue cheese (Bleu de Vercors), Abandonce and many more. Every year new variations of raclette cheese are released on the market.
“In terms of recipes, our original raclette accounts for some 85% of pre-packaged volumes. This can be broken down further into our classic recipe, which is our flagship brand, a rindless version for a smoother flavour, and a more intense version for flavour-seekers. Each variety comes in 420g packs or larger family-size formats” specifies Sophie Lopez.
The market leader also sells other flavoured versions, including beechwood smoked, pepper, or new this year, Herbes de Provence.
Wines that perform well with raclette
Traditional Savoyard food and Savoie wines go hand in hand. And when it comes to raclette, industry professionals all agree that only a Roussette will do. This dry, white wine exudes aromas of honey, walnuts and almonds and is one of the most typical of the Savoie region. Lively and fresh, it is the perfect foil to the rich cheese flavours and a spot-on match with dried meats. For those with a preference for red wines, Mondeuse would also make a great match.