Comté cheese is one of the most emblematic cheeses of France. But to achieve this unique taste, many manufacturing steps are necessary.
Comté cheese is produced by hand in around 140 village cheese dairies
Comté cheese is a raw milk cheese with a cooked pressed paste. Its terroir is the Massif du Jura, a mid-mountain region that extends over the Doubs, the Jura and the Ain and some communes of Saône et Loire. Cows of the French Montbéliarde and Simmental breeds are the only ones authorized for the production of Comté milk. Every day, the Comté is produced by hand in around 140 village cheese dairies, also called “fruitières”. Then it’s a matter of time ! Each wheel of Comté cheese must spend at least 4 months in a maturing cellar before being offered to gourmets. Some even stay there for 12, 18, 24 months or more. It takes time to taste ! Particularly rich in protein, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, vitamin A and B12 and a source of vitamin B2, Comté cheese is a precious food, the contributions of which are very useful for a balanced diet. Produced without any additives or colourings, controlled at each stage of its production, Comté is a healthy and natural food.
An average annual production of 327,000 liters of milk per farm
The Comté cheese was born in the kingdom of cross-country skiing, in the Jura Massif, a contrasting territory of medium mountains formed during the Jurassic period. The seasons here are very marked, very clear. The winters are harsh and the snowpack gives the landscapes a magical majesty. Thanks to a great floristic diversity, the Jura meadows take on a thousand colors when they bloom in spring. At the grass, the air resonates again with the sound of the bells of Montbéliardes which find the soft grass of the pastures. Today, around 2,400 family or company farms produce milk in Comté, for an average annual production of 327,000 liters of milk per farm. To produce Comté AOP, you obviously need milk : 400 liters are needed for a wheel that will weigh around 40 kg ! Only cows of the Montbéliarde and French Simmental breeds are authorized to produce it.
Each producer must have at least 1.3 hectares of forage area per dairy cow
The farms practice extensive agriculture: it does not aim for the highest yields but seeks quality production. It takes into account the particularities of the soils and preserves the floristic diversity. The cows are fed with a natural feed, based on fresh grass in the summer and hay in winter, which will strongly influence the diversity of the counties. Any fermented food, such as silage, is prohibited, as are GMO foods. To produce the fodder needed to feed his herd, each producer must have at least 1.3 hectares of forage area per dairy cow. The collection of each fruitière is part of a circle 25 km in diameter; this rule allows the preservation of a multitude of vintages and maintains jobs that cannot be relocated throughout the massif.
Made in a Fruitière
The fruitière is the workshop where the producers gather their milk to make it grow in Comté. Generally cooperative in nature, this original form of village organization was born 8 centuries ago. These values of solidarity and sharing have never been abandoned, just as the gestures and craft traditions that make Comté this great cheese have never been abandoned. The dairy receives milk from surrounding farms every day. As the milk must indeed be processed within 24 hours, Comté cheese is thus produced every day of the year. The method of making Comté cheese has not changed for centuries. Its purpose is to obtain a large cheese, with a pressed and cooked paste so that it can be kept for a long time.
14 specialized ripening houses
The Comté AOP zone has 14 specialized ripening houses. Their cellars, often spectacular, can make you think of veritable cathedrals, sheltering in silence and half-light, the Comté wheels during their maturation. They will experience their second transformation here and be the subject of attentive care, favoring the organoleptic development which takes place naturally over the months. The goal ? Bring the cheese to the optimum degree of maturity so that it acquires its identity and aromas. Comté is characterized by its astonishing aromatic richness. It is not a cheese with a uniform taste. Each wheel of Comté reveals a different aromatic profile depending on its micro-region of origin, its season, according to the particular dexterity of the master cheesemaker, according to the cellar where it was aged. Taste and let yourself be surprised!