Jan 282012

“Comté cheese is a masterpiece of aged milk”– Marie Simmons

Comté is a semi-hard cheese, made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and hails from the eastern region of France in the Franche-Comté region.  Each cheese can use up to 600 litres of whole milk during production and if it is grated before it reaches your home (yes, it does melt beautifully) it cannot be sold under the Comté name.

This cheese has moved up the ranks of favorites to hold a special place in my top cheese tier.  I would argue that it is a brilliant compliment to most cheese platters.  The rind however is not delicious and is one of the few that I cut off.  The taste is very similar to that of a Swiss Guyère.  Since Guyère doesn’t have the same aging process (or regulations), it is usually less expensive than Comté which produces a firmer cheese due to their aging process.  A direct taste off is in order!

Comté is an aged cheese made in large rounds.

The average aging period is 6-12 months, but it is often aged up to 24 months or can be aged in as little as four months.  It can, and is, aged even longer–at a swishy restaurant, you may be lucky enough to find the very best Comté which is aged up to four years. It all comes down to a matter of price…

Comté is one of the oldest cheeses and production began in the 12th century.  Like its French cousins, champagne and Roquefort, Comté has strict production regulations which include limitations on who is entitle to produce the cheese, a quality control grading system that determines who is able to use the comté name, and many other rules regarding the transportation, treatment of the milk and what the cows can eat–to name only a few.

There are no industrial farms that produce comté, only small farms that use unpasteurized  milk by and follow the comté traditional method.

This is how you slice a comté.  Please note that there is no nose to be stolen in a wedge like the one pictured above.  Different cut, different story.  This is the cut that I typically find at Whole Foods and other purveyors of fine cheeses.

 Posted by on January 28, 2012
Jan 132012

I love the topic of etiquette.  I grew up in a house where Emily Post was the go-to book of reference for all things.

One element of etiquette that is often lacking, even for the most gentile of people is what we shall further refer to as cheese crimes.

I loathe cheese crimes and feel compelled to let people know if they have committed one.  Often people aren’t even aware that they just committed a serious cheese offence.  Growing up in North America, cheese etiquette is not taught.  In France, everyone knows.   I would want to know–wouldn’t you?

The biggest offence in my books is steeling the nose.  Sacre bleu!  Imagine if you will, a lovely wedge of camembert.  It looks like a triangle non?  Steeling the nose is when the first person cuts the tip off.  A perfect triangle no more.   Then everyone starts hacking off the once perfect triangle until only the heel is left.  Who wants the heel? Not me.

The proper way to eat/share a wedge of cheese (this is primarily applicable to a soft or semi-ripened fromage) is to cut a piece off the side–leaving the cheese in the same shape for the person who enjoys it next.  Just keep working off the sides until there is only a sliver left.  The last bite should be as delicious as the first.

Please don’t steel the nose.  Please leave the cheese in the same shape as you found it.  Avoid cheese crimes and ensure that you are included in the next wine and cheese party.

 Posted by on January 13, 2012
Jan 042012

Without question my favourite food group is cheese. I believe that the cheese really does stand alone. When I started to think of everything in terms of 12 for the champagne year, I immediately knew that I would want to write about delicious, serious cheeses I have known and loved.

Depending on your level of cheese discernment, it must be said that you always need to make sure your cheese sits out for at least 30 minutes to really open up and let the flavours shine through. This is the first golden rule of cheese and is applicable to pretty much every cheese worth discussing. Yes elementary, but so important…

This first entry is going to examine blue cheese–but with a twist.  As the Germ would say, not a very reasonable twist–unless of course you live in France–and then it is just normal.  My official disclaimer comes now.  If you engage in the cheese practices outlined below, I can not be held responsible for the fact that you may never want to eat blue cheese any other way.

Of course you are asking, what could be so life changing about the way you eat blue?  The secret that I shall reveal is butter.  Butter and cheese?  OUI!  For those of little faith, try at least one bite, but be prepared for the fact that one bite is like trying crack just once.  The likelihood that you never go back to your old ways is very real. I am exhibit A.

We (Kitty and the Germ) are serious fromageries. Our go-to blue is a Roquefort, which originated in Southern France 1070 AD and is made from sheep’s milk. It is actually more green than blue, but not short on delicious. Roquefort must abide by very strict production regulations which are quite comparable to those that govern champagne  which include geographic production boundaries, specific production processes and the limited use of the name Roquefort to name only a few. Stilton is England’s blue varietal which made its debut in the 18th century. Stilton is much dryer than a Roquefort and made from cow’s milk (and is having an ongoing love affair with apricots). Rounding out the old world blue trifecta is Gorgonzola, the oldest blue dating back to 870 AD, also made from cow’s milk and hailing from Northern Italy.  Hurt us now.  Here we go.  Blue cheese, French style 101.

Take your baguette and butter it.  Once your bread is buttered, apply the French blue. I say splash out and go with Roquefort.  Be prepared for angels to start singing.

If you are someone who finds blue too strong (words rarely uttered in our house) this may just be the magic answer you have been looking for.

In France I have seen people take butter one step further.  They mix butter directly into the cheese and make a spread of pure deliciousness.

St Agur is another French blue that we really enjoy, but made from cow’s milk.  We also enjoy dragon’s breath blue which is quite different as it is a new world blue–from Acadia, quite formidable, yet much more difficult to find.  In a pinch or in an attempt to be economic, the Danish blue known as Danablu, made from cow’s milk and is inspired by Roquefort.  It is usually available at Costco and works well if you are just starting to lean into blue cheese.  You will however get a large portion which can be later sagely used crumbled in salads (try using it with apples or pears and pine nuts).

If you want to go all out, pair your buttered blue with a port, desert wine or something slighter sweeter (like a riesling or gewürztaminer) to truly enhance the flavour for a magical experience.  Since blue cheese is strong and slightly salty, you will want to avoid a down and dirty competition with wine. You will be in for a serious pucker if you try to pair blue with a fruity wine like sauvignon blanc.  The tastes will compete and pretty much ruin the experience.

Bottom line, butter almost always makes everything better, but once you butter blue, you will never go back.

 Posted by on January 4, 2012