[ot sa vwa]

There are 3 reasons to head to Haute-Savoie, a department in France with the largest mountain range, known for the many ski resorts. Number 1 – the mountains…the hills are alive.. 2 – the lakes, 3 – the cheese. I will focus on the fromage /cheese ! Our holiday was around Christmas time and while planning our Christmas Day menu, I had no choice but to investigate the 8 Savoie cheese[s] – Abondance, Beaufort, Chevrotin, Emmertal de Savoie, Raclette de Savoie, Tome des Bauges, Tomme de Savoie and Reblochon. I’ve always wanted to make Tartiflette and it seemed perfect for our Alpine Christmas lunch – potatoes, bacon and cheese. Reblochon cheese is tartiflette’s best friend, this creamy cylindrical cheese is about 500g and is made in Haute-Savoie and in Val d’early in Savoie. Look out for the P.D.O [protected designation of origin] and P.G.I. [protected geographical Indication] labels on the Savoie cheese, these seals guarantee authenticity and quality, a close link between a product and the region, regulations include : feed for the cows, grazing days, milking, manufacturing and maturing the cheese. The raw milk comes from 3 breeds of cows – the Abondance – a breed originating from the Abondance Valley in Haute-Savoie,[the Abondance’s milk is almost exclusively found in Reblochon], the Tarine breed and the Montbéliarde. There are 2 types of Reblochon – Farm produced and dairy made. When farm produced, all the milk comes from a single herd on the farm and the cheese is produced straight after milking, production is manual and happens on the farm. The cheese gets a green stamp and the Reblochon fermier logo on the box. Dairy made Reblochon on the other hand is made using milk collected from different farms and production has to be within 24 hours of milk collection, the cheese has a red stamp – Reblochon laitier.

The key ingredient for tartiflette is Reblochon, certified as a P.D.O in 1958 and in terms of volume, ranked 3rd P.D.O cheese of France. It’s name comes from the term “re-blocher” literally meaning “ to milk a second time”. In the XVIIth century, the milk for Reblochon was produced through a second milking of the cows. It was therefore richer and creamier than that first milking, which is what gives Reblochon de Savoie its traditionally creamy texture. ‘La Tartiflette’ gets its name from the “Tartifla” Savoyard potato, you can also use Roseval or Belle de Fontenay potatoes. You will need onions, smoked bacon , some thick cream/crème fraiche , a pinch of pepper and some white wine from the Savoie region, to be enjoyed with the meal as well .

We arrived in Morzine two days before Christmas to Christmas lights and fresh snow , it could not have been more perfect. I had my shopping list in hand – Reblochon, Savoie wine, bacon, onion, cream and potatoes on the top of my list, followed by less important chocolate, milk, eggs and juice. There are many recipes for Tartiflette- same ingredients, but different methods- I simply boiled as many potatoes as our Air B’nB pot allowed, fried some bacon in butter, then fried the onion [with a bit of garlic] in the bacon fat, I splashed some wine in the pan to deglaze and added the cream to create a thick creamy sauce. When the potatoes were done and cooled, I sliced them and placed 1 layer in my buttered dish, covered with the onions, bacon, another layer of potato and then the cheeeeeese. Scrape the rind and cut the cheese length wise, placing it rind side up. Pop in a 200deg C oven for 20-25 min. Serve with a fresh green salad. Dessert was Christmas fruit cake and ice cream, all that was missing was the wifi. Ha ha, we did not have wifi but bless the French T.V for their Christmas classic Disney night, Snow White, Cinderella and Bambi all with the option of ‘version original’. The leftover Tartiflette made a great lunch on Boxing day, I’m convinced it tasted even better the next day.

Morzine is a pretty village of wood and slate, right in the heart of the Portes du Soleil/doors of the sun, it offers 120km of skiing. It is in the Haute Savoie of the French Alps, just south of the Swiss border & Lake Geneva (Lac Leman), an original French market town and its authenticity sets it apart from other Alpine ski villages. The nearby lake Montriond is a must visit, the lakeside café served the best French fries, crêpes and vin chaud [hot wine]. The lake was frozen and the snow was fresh, which made our walk around the lake a bit like an obstacle course and we worked up an appetite for.. well more fromage de Savoie.