Thursday, 27 August 2015

Timanoix and Trappe Echourgnac

Trappists and Trappistines are monks and nuns of the Cistercian Order who follow the strict rule of Saint Benedict. Trappists are famous for restricting their speech to that which is strictly necessary (although not a vow of silence as many believe) and the wonderful artisanal products such as beer, liqueurs and cheese that they make.

A selection of cheeses set out for a tasting session at Les Fromages du Moulin.
Timanoix and Trappe Echourgnac are two unusual cheeses made by two Trappist monastic institutions, one monks in Morbihan (southern Brittany), the other nuns in the Périgord area of the Dordogne. The name Timanoix is derived from the name of the Abbey in Brittany, Timadeuc, and noix, the French word for walnut. Echourgnac is the name of the Abbey in the Dordogne.

The rind is washed and brown and the cheese has a distinct walnut aroma. It's a cow's milk cheese, quite soft and pale. The reason for the walnut aroma is that the solution used to wash the rind is a mixture of brine and a walnut liqueur from a Périgord distiller. There is no sensation of residual alcohol, it's more like the cheese has been wrapped in walnut leaves or rubbed with green walnuts. After aging for a couple of months the cheese is a perfect blend of walnut and mild creamy smooth dairy flavours.

Rodolphe talking about some Comté.
Timanoix is a 21st century cheese, created when the sisters of Echourgnac could no longer meet the demand for their walnut flavoured cheese. They offered their brother monks the opportunity to make the cheese and satisfy what was a growing niche market. Both religious houses use the cheese as a means of supporting their local dairy farmers, by buying their milk and working with them to improve the quality of the raw material and the value added product.

I'd never heard of either cheese, but earlier this year cheese refiner Rodolphe le Meunier offered a Timanoix as part of a tasting session I had arranged for some clients. It's a cheese I will look out for and buy if I see it again.


  1. All the Trappist cheeses that I have eaten... one Dutch from La Trappe, washed rind in their beer....
    and the others Belgian [Orval, Chimay, Westvleteren, Rochefort, Westmalle all make a cheese]... are all rich and very tasty... rather like their beers....
    I personally think that they are only a silent order to make sure they keep the secret amongst themselves.
    Some, like Chimay, are incredibly commercial and all is now produced off-site and available in a supermarché near you...
    whereas, at Westvleteren, it is all in-house, buy at the shop after the tour...
    a number of nearby shops also sell the produce, but that is as far as it gets.
    Orval is inbetween...
    but they've got a cookbook on how to use their beer and cheese...
    "Flavours from Orval"
    But given the fact that even the Chimay cheese is only sold locally to the Abbey...
    Rodolphe may well have purchased these from source with an eye to sell them on to some of his restaurant customers.
    I like the look of Timanoix... sounds as though you like the flavour, too!

    1. I'm a fan of the walnut/cheese flavour combo. My impression is that Rodolphe has good contacts in Brittany and I assume bought the cheese from the monks directly. It's a great cheese for his American and Parisian clients I suspect with just the right amount of novelty value versus not too weird. The monastic institutions would have an eye on that aspect of its marketability too.

  2. I never knew there were Breton fromages! And why not. That brownish one, Timanoix, looks interesting.

    1. Bonjour Cousin ,


      After watching "Thalassa", and "les Racines et les ailes" about Britanny on the farmers in the interior ( l'intérieur des terres) , that's when I decided to do some research for a visit in the future and found that site

    2. Bonjour Cousine,

      Merci for the link. I'll be looking more in depth at that site later on to learn more about Breton goodies! There are so many different cheeses in France, I can't keep up!