Comte is in reality the French equivalent of Swiss Gruyere, in fact it is often called Gruyere de Comte or French Gruyere. This great French cheese is produced in the Franche-Comte region which encompasses the three departments of Jura, Doubs and Haute-Salone. This mountainous region borders the Alps and the cheeses that are produced there are considered to be Alpine cheeses. The dairy cows in these alpine pastures graze on grass and mountain flowers which produce the grassy, herbaceous flavours and aromas of the cheeses that are produced here. The major difference between French and Swiss Gruyeres is the Swiss version can be aged for only three months while the French (Comte) is aged for a minimum of six months and is often aged for twelve months. This longer aging process brings out a bolder and richer flavour.
All French Comte is AOC name controlled to assure that only milk from this region’s dairies is used to produce it. This cheese is not produced on a large scale or in cheese factories but continues to be made by small local dairies that make about six to seven 80lb wheels per day. This low volume of production ensures attention to detail and consistent high quality cheeses.
As with many hard Alpine cheeses, it is hard to abuse and will hold up well in your refrigerator. It is an unpasteurized pressed, cooked curd cheese and has an inedible natural brushed rind. When shopping for it do not purchase any that is mouldy, looks dried out or has a cracked rind as these are sure signs of mishandling. The interior paste will have small pea sized holes through out and will have a yellowish to ivory colour. Its flavour will have hints of hazelnuts and grassy herbs. Always look for the bell symbol and the name Comte stamped in green on the rind. However, a lot of the wheels coming into Australia have a white and green paper label attached to the cheese with the name Comte AOC printed in Green on it. This cheese has a fat content of 45%.
Comte is a versatile cheese that goes well with salads and sliced for sandwiches. It is also great for lunch served with salami and crusty bread and as a dessert course served with fresh fruit. It also melts well so use it with baked potatoes gratins or rice dishes.
Wine parings: Big French reds like Cotes du Rhone, Burgundies and fruity reds like Beaujolais
Keep being ewenique!