It seems only fitting that the beauty of the Massif du Jura would match that of its most treasured produce, Comté. Fruity and savoury notes take turns caressing your palate, with sweet and salty undertones bursting through in waves. Like the conversion of woods to countryside, the texture transforms from dense to open as it lingers, while aromas of roasted hazelnuts and caramelised butter spread like clouds on a clear sky.
The flavours are clean and greatly influenced by their surroundings. Dotted with charming villages and luscious pastures, the mountains of Jura in eastern France provide fresh grass for the Montbéliarde and French Simmental cows during the summer. From their milk, the local creameries produce the iconic flavours and aromas that characterise Comté.
Inspiring awe wherever it finds itself, Comté is an outstanding product of the highest level.
Renowned for its complex flavours, the production of Comté is not just down to workmanship and skill.
Raw milk is delivered straight from the farmhouse to one of the local creameries, the fruitiére. At this point, it is filtered and poured into large copper vats and rennet is added. This helps the milk coagulate and form a firm curd, which is then separated. Closely monitoring the consistency of the curd lets workers know exactly when to drain it. Large wheel-shaped moulds are lined with the broken curd and pressed for an entire day to squeeze out any excess whey. Coarse sea salt from Guérande, along with a yeast solution, is brushed onto the rind, making the wheels ready for aging.
Taking full advantage of the surroundings, the cheese is aged in the cool and humid caves of the Alps. Absorbing the naturally filtered moisture from cracks in the walls, the Comté achieves its unique taste and aromatic nature. Anywhere from 4 to 24 months can be spent maturing in the dark caves of the Massif du Jura mountainsides, finally creating a picture-perfect wheel of Comté cheese.
With the full benefit of wholesome milk, Comté is unpasteurised, unadulterated in flavour and entirely free of gluten. The addition of animal rennet, however, makes this cheese unsuitable for vegetarians.
When looking for a stand-in with an equal sense of elegance and ubiquity in taste, cheeses that offer qualities of their own provide the best results.
Within the realm of cheese aged in caves, Gruyère strongly resembles Comté. Almost identical in both texture and taste, it presents stronger tones of butter and hazelnut. As a substitute for Comté, you will fair no better than the Swiss Gruyère.
For a different take, Fontina proves a worthy replacement for Comté. It also boasts mild tones of browned butter and roasted nuts, with a dense texture ideal for melting.
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