While some American farmers are just discovering the joys and products of old-fashioned, methodical cheesemaking — employing ones own cows, sheep and goats — some in France are rigthfully worried that that country is losing its traditional methods, along with some of its long-time producers. One family that has been making cheese since Charlemagne’s 9th century rule, is in its last generation of cheesemakers.
Blame increasing globalization of both palate and distribution. Near-ubiquitous use of pasteurization has also moved the French away from unique raw-milk cheeses and toward blander packaged fare. As a result, the very people who coined the term terroir (meaning that the food reflects the region in which it was produced, say as a result of specific grass munched by local cows) are in danger of losing their most unique geographically-based cheeses.
Why should we care? If you love cheese, of course, you likely treasure the small-batch, hand-made varieties from the farmer’s own hands and farm. They’re more special and rare; they taste more distinct, reflecting the land and the care — sometimes two years of processing and storing — that went into them. This trend extends beyond cheese, of course, and represents a loss of long-time tradition and craftsmanship as well as a diminishment in the appreciation of a fine product, which leads to the demise of that product itself. Remember when cars were more stylish? Clothing better made?
This fine article explains the cheese situation in more depth.
The only thing one can do on this (or any) side of the pond? Gather up a good French cheese, like the Comte Les Trois Comptois (a nutty, floral raw milk gruyere), a sturdy baguette, and a bottle of wine, and do your part to keep unique, terroir French cheeses alive.
Photos: Keith Weller, Susan Sachs Lipman
Posted in Butter and Egg, Lost Arts, Slow News, Sustainability, To Market, Who Moved My Cheese?
Tagged Cheese, Comte, Food, French, French Cheese, Gruyere, Les Trois Comtois, Slow Food, Sustainability, Terroir
In a world in which many cheeses are easy to eat, this one is especially pleasing and delightful. I practically dare anyone not to like it. (A cheese gauntlet.) And, yet, it’s by no means bland. In fact, it’s quite flavorful — sweet and nutty, with hints of caramel, vanilla and flowers. The flavors are not bold or overpowering; Rather they are subtle and complex. The taste lingers nicely in the mouth, and even invokes a little extra tang after a moment. The Comté has a great mouth feel, too. It’s buttery, without being overly soft. This all makes for a very likable package.
A true terroir cheese, Comté is made by the Les Trois Comptois cheesemakers in the Jura mountains of eastern France, an area of rolling hills and plateaus on the Swiss border that is also known for its wines. (The region is also called the Franche-Comté.) The Comté is one of the 40 or so (out of 500) French cheeses which get to bear the designation, “AOC”, or “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée”. This means that the cheese was made in a specific region, using local cows and codified production methods. It’s fun to know that those were Jura Mountain flowers I was tasting.
The Comté has certainly earned its AOC: It’s an ancient cheese that’s been in production since the time of Charlemagne. It’s made from the milk of just two types of cow — Montbeliarde and Tachete de L’est. And it endures a long maturing period (called “affinage”), in which it is cleaned and rubbed with salted water.
Comté makes a great nibbling cheese, or a welcome addition to a cheese plate. It works with a variety of nuts and fruits. A Jura wine would make an excellent pairing. Short of that, a dry white or a light red, like a Beaujolais, would be lovely.
Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman
Posted in Butter and Egg, Who Moved My Cheese?
Tagged AOC, Cheese, Comte, Food, France, Gruyere, Jura, Les Trois Comtois, Slow Food, Sustainability, Terroir