Comté is a cheese with a cooked, pressed rind produced in the Jura Mountain region according to a traditional process. This cheese is shaped by this diverse terroir, the work of the region's cattle ranchers, and the expertise and experience of the cheesemaker and ripener. Each and every wheel is unique.
What you need to know
PDO Comté is the number-one French cheese in terms of tonnage. Every year, 1.6 million wheels are sold. It takes 105 gallons of milk to produce one wheel, which weighs around 90 pounds. Ninety-five percent of this raw milk comes from Montbéliarde cows, while the remaining 5% is sourced from French Simmental cows. The other secret behind this fantastic cheese is the diary cows' natural diet. They graze on fresh grass throughout the summer, then are given hay in winter. This diet influences the milk's taste, especially since the region is incredibly diverse. In fact, it is home to 576 distinct plant species. The milk is transported daily from 2,600 family dairy farms to fruitières, or small village creameries, where it is processed within 24 hours. The creameries, which have been run as co-ops for the past eight centuries, use artisanal production methods and follow a solidarity- and community-minded business model. There are now around 150 in operation. After the ripening stage, during which the skimmed milk is allowed to rest at 86 °F, the milk is curdled with lactic ferments. The cheesemaker then uses a curd cutter to break up the curds into small granules, which separate out from the whey. The mixture is then heated to 130 °F to remove any excess liquid. Next comes the hooping stage, during which the contents of the vat are expelled into perforated molds that let the remaining whey drain out. The cheese is placed into a press and formed into wheels before the pre-ripening stage. For three weeks, the cheeses are regularly salted, rubbed, and turned.
The wheels are then transferred out of the creamery and aged in a cheese cave, the last important step. Through the skill and experience of the cheese ripener, each cheese will take on a unique set of flavors and aromas during this stage. The cheese is aged for a minimum of four months, but can be kept in the cave for 24 months or more.
For a product to be granted the Protected Designation of Origin label, every stage of its production, processing and preparation must take place in the same particular region. These specific natural and human factors give the product its typical characteristics. This label protects the name of the product throughout the European Union and is also recognized in other countries, like Japan and China.
Rich in protein, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. Thirty grams of Comté provide a third of your daily needs in calcium.
White wine: Côtes du Jura, Château Chalon, Chablis, Champagne and Châteauneuf du Pape.
Red wine: Brouilly, Chinon and Coteaux Champenois.