I love Comte. Why not re-start my Purely Arbitrary Cheese Obsession of the Week entries with a cheese I love so much?
There are lots of good Comtes. We almost always use a 4-6 month Comte as our basic Alpine cheese and we often have a more aged one as well. Right now our 15 month (from the Fort Des Rousses which you can see lots pictures of if you scroll down to “Day 6”) is stellar. Nutty, grassy, milky-sweet…. I rarely use anything else for cooking anymore.
The basic difference between Comte (sometimes called Gruyere de Comte)and Swiss Gruyere besides the border line is that (at least from what I saw) the Swiss is brined and the Comte is hand-salted. From our vantage point 10,000 miles or so away from both producers, the Swiss is usually more pungent and onion-y, the Comte more nutty and sweet.
The other difference is that – due to the name-control regulations – Comte preserves the land where it is made by legally recognizing the importance of pasture. Though the milk of over 100,000 cows is used to make Comte, the average herd size is only 35 and each cow must have almost 2.5 acres for grazing. The local cooperatives that make the cheese are also limited in the amount they can produce.
I even used it as a submission for an article that an environmental organization was going to do on eco-friendly cheese. I thought it was perfect because it’s the best example I can think of to show how a cheese can be mass produced (at any given time there are about 50,000 wheels of Comte aging in Fort Des Rousses, which is a large, but not the only, aging cave for the cheese) but still be hand-made with the same quality of a small-production cheese and with explicit regulations regarding the protection of the environment and animal welfare. Amusingly, it wasn’t used because they chose to use a more esoteric, pricey,harder-to-find Alpine cheese example instead. Stay (upper-)classy, big environmental groups!
Anyways, Comte is my Purely Arbitrary Cheese Obsession of the Week. I’m going to go eat some right now.
(And hey, don’t forget to “like” my new facebook page before the “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge” one gets phased out.)
Lovely post, Gordon! Glad to see the cheese of the week posts back in action.
Yay – great to hear someone extolling the joy of Comte – as my local cheesemonger says “it’s France’s favourite cheese”
I also enjoy Comte….and love selling it. Am selling a 10 month old currently.
Recently, I bought a new wheel of Reggiano (16 month old and a great price) but encountered something I have never seen before…and I wonder if you can tell me what is going on…the paste had small holes in it. I’ve never seen ‘holes’ in a wheel of Reggiano and I go through 6 to 8 of them a year. Have you ever come across this? And what does it mean? It is probably why the wheel was such a great price…tastes fine…I just find the holes disconcerting. If you know what is happening, I would so appreciate your letting me know. Thanks
The Parm Regg consortium has grades for their wheels. They’ve recently upgraded their English language website so you can check it out here: http://www.parmigianoreggiano.com/consortium/disciplinare_produzione_vigente_sino_agosto_2011/marking_regulation.aspx
I didn’t think that wheels under 18 months came into the US, actually…(and I believe it used to be a minimum of 24 months). That may be a sign that the cheese was judged inferior for longer aging as well.
I’ve had an occasional wheel with holes over the years for sure. I prefer it to the occasionally spongy-paste ones, those are a nightmare! Good luck.