Mont des Cats

Mont des Cats is a small hill (alt. 150m) near the town of Godewaersvelde, in French Flanders. Its name in Dutch is Katsberg. It is the seat of an abbey bearing the same name, famous for the cheese produced by the monks since 1890.

The name has nothing to do with cats, but is derived from the name of a Germanic tribe known as Chatti (French: Chattes; Dutch; Chatten), living in the area after the fall of the Roman Empire (5th century). The Dutch name is supposed to be also the root for the name of the town Katwijk.

A first community of the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony was settled in 1650 and lasted until the French Revolution which closed the monastery in 1792. In 1826, a new community of Trappists (Reformed Cistercians) was funded, and this congregation has run the abbey ever since.

Mont des Cats cheese has been produced by the monks since 1890 with the milk of local farms, in a small independent dairy. The production method are similar to those used for Port Salut. Affinage (maturing) takes a minimum of one month and during this period the cheese is washed in salted water and dyed with roucou, a reddish derivative from annatto seeds. The texture of the cheese is hard, uncooked, pressed and has small holes. The fat content is 50%. In Flanders it is sometimes eaten as a breakfast cheese with coffee.