Pont-l'Évêque is a French cheese, originally manufactured in the area around the commune of Pont-l'Évêque, between Deauville and Lisieux in the Calvados département of Basse-Normandie, and probably the oldest Norman cheese still in production.
Pont-l'Évêque is an uncooked, unpressed cow's-milk cheese, square in shape usually at around 10cm square and around 3cm high, weighing 400g. The central pâte is soft, creamy pale yellow in colour with a smooth, fine texture and has a pungent aroma. This is surrounded by a washed rind that is white with a gentle orange-brown coloration. The whole is soft when pressed but lacks elasticity. It is generally ranked alongside Brie, Camembert, and Roquefort as one of the most popular cheeses in France.
The cheese has been made in Normandy since at least the 12th century, and local legend claims that it was first made in a Norman abbey. A manuscript from the time writes that a fine meal should always end with some "angelot", the name used for the cheese at the time.
The cheese became popular across the country from the 16th century onwards, when it obtained the name of the village around which its production was centred.
Pont-l'Évêque was recognised as an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) cheese on August 30, 1972, reaching full status in 1976. Its production was defined and protected with a decree of December 29, 1986.
The AOC regulations include the following restrictions:
- The milk must come from a controlled area around the village of Pont-l'Évêque, extending to the départments of Calvados, Eure, Manche, Mayenne, Orne and Seine-Maritime.
- The curd must be successively divided, kneaded and then drained.
- During affinage the cheeses must be washed, brushed and turned.
- The resulting cheese must be one of three sizes:
- Petit - 8.5-9.5cm square, and a minimum of 85g of dry matter.
- Demi - 10.5-11.5cm by 5.2-5.7cm, with a minimum of 70g of dry matter.
- Grand - 19-21cm square, with a minimum of 650g of dry matter.
The affinage lasts at least two weeks after production, though most are left for over six weeks.
The cheese is around 45% fat as a percentage of dry matter and is manufactured throughout the year. Regulations currently allow both pasteurized or unpasteurized milk to be used during manufacture.
The annual production is around 3,500 tonnes, of which the majority is made by two large producers. Only 2% of the production is classed as fermier. Acclaimed manufacturers include Bisson et fils, Lanquetôt, Lepeudry, and Levasseur.