One of the most widely manufactured French AOC cheeses, Comte originates from the lush Jura Mountains in France. Around 40,000 tons of Comte is annually produced here. It belongs to the Gruyere line of cheeses that are also manufactured in the Jura mountains and is rightly dubbed as the King of Gruyeres by all those who produce it. A typical hard mountain cheese and an age-old beloved in France, it has been in production since the time of Charlemagne. It is also among the first cheeses in the world to acquire an Appellation d’origine contrÃ´lÃ©e status recognition. Comte is now catching the fancy of cheese gourmands all around the world.
It is made from unpasteurized cowâs milk to which absolutely no additives are added. It is made from the milk of red and white Montbeliard cows and also Tachete de L’est found in Jura Mountains, Franche-ComtÃ© in France. These cows are reared in the best of conditions and feed on more than 130 kinds of flowers and grasses. This gives the cheese it complex and diverse tastes. It is mostly manufactured in fruitiÃ¨res or the small cooperative diaries in France which collect milk from all farmers located within a 15 miles radius of their location. During its production, the cheese is cleaned on a timely basis and rubbed down with salt water. The mature period of the cheese is quite extensive, around two years, and is known as affinage. As it matures, the rind will change its golden hue to brown and will also solidify.
Texture of the Cheese
The flat circular discs of the cheese have a hard ivory colored texture which is flexible. The diameter can range between 16 to 28 inches and thickness is about 4 inches. The cheese is riddled with many holes of varying shapes; they can be of the size of green peas or even slighter larger cherries. In fact, the quality of any Comte cheese can be ascertained from the size, shape and condition of the holes. Usually, varieties that have been aged for six to twelve months are costlier than other versions.
The Gusto and Flavors
A creamy cheese with a sweet but complex taste. If you like your cheese to have an intense flavor, then pick an aged variety of this cheese. The flavor of the cheese also depends on the season in which it is manufactured. When made from cowâs milk obtained during the summers, the cheese has a light fruity taste. Whereas, milk in the winter months yields a nutty caramelized hint in the cheese. Also, some producers of Comte bring out a more concentrated flavor in it than others. It has a delicate nutty taste due to the slight undertones of butterscotch. It is also said that there can be as many as 83 distinct flavors in this cheese; some of which are chocolate, butter, pepper, cream, apricot, etc. Although, the cheese is full flavored, it is never pungent. Also, the fat content of this cheese is quite high, about 45 percent.
Tips to Serve Comte
The cheese can be readily used in the kitchen as it can be grated, sliced, melted, or hacked into chunks easily. It is a preferred ingredient in sandwiches and salads. It is also sliced and eaten with lunch or cut into cubes and dished up with appetizers. It is the traditional choice for making fondue. Classic pairing with this cheese is the yellow hued Jura wines from France. It goes well with most red and white wines and also with champagnes. It brings out the flavor of Muscats, GewÃ¼rztraminers, and soft red Bordeaux blends. Sherry and Comte cheese are a scrumptious combination. It also goes well with some white wines like Riesling and Chenin Blanc and also dry white wines like Sancerra. A few select red wines of Gamay or Merlot make also taste excellent with Comte.