Vacherin is a cow's-milk (French vache, "cow") cheese. Two main types of French or Swiss Vacherin cheeses exist.
One is a soft, rich, seasonal cheese contained in a grayish-yellow blanched rind and called Vacherin Mont d'Or. Made from cow's-milk in Switzerland or France, usually in villages of the Jura region (an origin that has been officially controlled since 1981), it typically contains 45 to 50 percent milk fat (in dry matter). It is marketed in round boxes of various diameters made of spruce. It is often served warmed in its original packaging and eaten like a fondue.
This cheese is made between August 15 and March 15, and is sold throughout France between September 10 and May 10.
The other Vacherin, a firmer cheese, is called Vacherin Fribourgeois. It is made in the Fribourg canton of Switzerland where Gruyère originates and has a slightly acidic, resiny flavor, with a varying strength depending on the age and type. It is also a basic component lending character to fondues (depending on the recipe). Vacherin Fribourgeois has Swiss AOC status with 6 varieties being available:
- Classic (aged: 6-12 weeks)
- Extra (aged: minimum 12 weeks)
- Rustic (aged: minimum 12 weeks, but up to 25 weeks (6 months))
- Alpage (aged: 12-25 weeks)
- Mountain (aged 9-25 weeks)
- Bio (Organic) (aged: minimum 9 weeks)
This cheese is made between September and April.
Vacherin d'alpage is made from the milk of cows pasturing in alpine meadows and hence has a much richer taste. Vacherin d'alpage are usually made in a cauldron over a wooden fire in some remote chalet on an alpine meadow and they are not easy to find in the trade. The older the vacherin gets, the stronger the smell of ammonia due to microorganism activity in the cheese.