Tag Archives: alpine cheese

Alpine Cheese-O-Rama

10 things about my cheesy life.

Clearly I do not have enough time to make consistent blog posts. I think I will have to resort to lists until the end of the year.

1. I got asked again by a customer “Who ghost wrote your book for you?” Because I know you are curious, usually people ask because they want a recommendation on who to hire to help them develop a personal brand. And no, they usually have not read my book.

2. Not that there’s anything wrong with not having read my book. Most Americans have not read my book.

3. We adopted an Alp from the awesome Caroline Hostettler. Program info is here. Basically, this is a program to support cheesemakers who are still doing the traditional seasonal migration of animals up and down the Alps (also known as transhumance). Our cheese is awesome. Made between 6500-8000 ft, it is buttery, grassy, nutty, and milky sweet. It is on the younger side so it doesn’t have the onioniness pungency of a more aged Swiss Alp Cheese, but it is much more complex than most of the young Swisses that come into the US.

4. We got the party Alp, Obern Galm. Here’s the party alp theme song (I don’t know why I cannot get it to embed)

5. Here’s cheesemonger Andreas with the first two wheels:
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6. Here’s my selfie with the adopted Alp cheese.
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Don’t forget to post your cheesemonger selfie here:

7. Cheesemonger gatherings are awesome. I think cheesemongers everywhere should have them. Cheese is not necessary for the event.

8. It is feeling like the holidays in the cooler.

9. Here is one of my current favorite cheeses. Amazingly low price for what you get:
moelleux de revard

10. Here’s some more cheese pr0n for you filthy people:
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Tomme d’Abondance

I’ve always thought this cheese was underrated and super cute. It’s in that Alpine cheese category that I love so much, but it’s less well known than many others from that region, at least here in the U.S. Though it varies by producer, affineur, etc. it can be about the spiciest of the French Alp cheeses with that aged sweet onion taste I associate more with cheeses from the Swiss side of the border.

Look at these beauties: DSC01162

Supposedly the history of this dates back to the 14th Century when Monks made this style of cheese. But you don’t need to study up on this cheese to enjoy it. I’m sure this is not true 100% of the time,* but, generally, darker the wash on the outside, the stronger the cheese. This actually holds true with the Vermont versions of this cheese – Tarentaise by Thistle Hill and Spring Brook – and there is a scientific basis for this so I’ll stay with it until proven otherwise.

Right now we have about the strongest Abondance that we’ve ever had but I like it in all its permutations. The blonder rinded ones are incredibly nutty and grassy, the dark pink sticky ones are big, intense, and powerful. And cute.

Did I mention cute? Look at these indented rinds with the little lips:
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As Mojo Nixon would say, That’s “not no fool Billy Idol lip either”**

*We’ve never regularly sold this cheese so I do not consider myself an expert on it. In 19 years of mongering we’ve probably sold less than 2000 lbs.
**

Comte: always an obsession

I love Comte. Why not re-start my Purely Arbitrary Cheese Obsession of the Week entries with a cheese I love so much?

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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.
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(And hey, don’t forget to “like” my new facebook page before the “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge” one gets phased out.)