Monday, July 26, 2010

Cheese of the Month : Cantal (PDO/ AOP)

Cantal cheese is a firm cheese from the Cantal region of France. It is named after the Cantal mountains in the Auvergne region. The Auvergne region is absolutely beautiful and I would recommend it to anyone.

“Life in Cantal is played out against a stunning landscape of immense power and beauty. Home to natural riches as varied as the dramatic gorges of the Lot and Truyère, the ancient woodland of La Châtaigneraie, the wild moorland of the Aubrac and the boundless emerald green pastures of Salers. But above all Cantal is a land dominated by mountains. Long before the first signs of man, streams of molten lava erupted from the earth’s core to form an immense volcanic crater. For eons this vast mountain of fire dominated the land until an ice age once more froze the surface of the earth. Giant glaciers ripped through the vast volcano, tearing apart the walls of the crater, gouging out steep valleys and sculpting the sharp summits and ridges of the Monts du Cantal.”

Anyway, back to the cheese. Cantal is one of the oldest cheeses in France. It benefits from Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). Cantal is shaped like a cylinder, and is one foot in diameter. Cantal is made from raw or pasteurised cow's milk of the Salers breed.

For Cantal, the milk of cows that are fed on hay (during 15 November to 15 April) is used; the summer milk of the same cows grazing on mountain meadows makes the Salers cheese. This semi-hard cheese is aged for several months. The flavor is similar to Cheddar, with a strong, tangy butter taste and grows with age. A well ripened Cantal has a vigorous taste, while a young cheese has the sweetness of raw milk. Its smell is of earth and pasture lands, and is reminiscent of the rich pasture land of the Auvergne region it originates from. According to the time of aging, three varieties are distinguished:
  • Cantal jeune (aged 1-2 months)
  • Cantal entre-deux or Cantal doré (aged 2-6 months
  • Cantal vieux (aged more than 6 months).
These are all available as "fermier" and "laitier". Most (>80% of production) Cantal is of the first two varieties. Cantal vieux is already a hard cheese, if kept properly, it can last up to a year and a half without spoiling. It is not produced in large quantities. Much loved in the Cantal region, Cantal vieux is quite rarely exported due to its strong taste, and can usually be found only in specialist stores.

If you like Cheddar, you will love Cantal. My favourite variety is Cantal Vieux as I find it has more flavour (similar to a mature cheddar). It can be used instead of Cheddar in recipes. See above for a recipe using Cantal. Enjoy!

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