Sunday, February 4, 2007

Comté

In Switzerland, they make the wonderful, wildly famous cheese called Gruyère. Across the Alpine border, they make a similar variety.

But in France, as Groucho Marx observed, they have a different word for everything (even when they’re speaking the same language, I suppose). So the French call their version Comté.

The two types are not exactly identical, but they are mighty close. Like Gruyère, Comté is an all-weather friend. It grates and melts well, but is just as assertive standing on its own.

Decent lowland varieties are available, but the best Comté comes from the Jura mountains, where cows feast on the lush summer grasses of the high Alps. The rinds of the best brands have green stamps and a little bell printed on them.

Comté is always made at small farms—there are no industrial versions—using unpasteurized whole milk. The cheese is pressed into large rounds, and aged for between six to 12 months. This is a longer maturation period than most Swiss Gruyères, producing a slightly firmer texture in the French style.

PAIRINGS: Comté goes as well in a ham sandwich as it does on an after dinner cheeseboard. It grates and melts well, and works in a salad or with a peppery French saucisson. It pairs well with almost any wine, too. I like it with pinot noir, but sauvignon blancs also hold up.

Click here to buy some.

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