Behind this unmistakable cylinder is one of France's oldest cheeses. Cantal cheese is a pure product of its terroir, so much so that it takes its name from the mountainous massif in its native department. Its AOC and PDO status are richly deserved. Awarded in 1956 and 1996 respectively, they set out the production requirements for this cow's milk cheese, which is pressed twice and then ripened for 30 days to over six months. This is how it can range from softly textured, with a wonderful buttery taste to almost crumbly with intense, even slightly spicy flavors.
What you need to know
Impervious to passing time and trends. Cantal cheese has been produced in the same way for decades, predominantly in the department of the same name. First, the raw or pasteurized cow's milk is brought to a temperature of 32 °C / 90 °F. Then, a rennet is added to coagulate it. The resulting curd is cut into small grains and gathered into a compact mass, for the first pressing. This pressed curd is then matured for 10 to 24 hours before being ground and salted to soften the paste and enhance it further. Finally, it is packed into a mold, pressed a second time, turned out of the mold and ripened for at least 30 days for a "Jeune", 2 to 6 months for an "Entre-deux" and over six months for a "Vieux".
Though obviously high in calories, Cantal cheese is also a very good source of calcium.
How to use
Like many cheeses, Cantal benefits from being taken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving, as it is best enjoyed at room temperature.
Serve on a slice of farmhouse bread, with cured ham, in a "Cordon Bleu"-style chicken suprême or a vegetable soup, etc. And as for wine - it has to be a Marcillac red!