Growing up I devoured my way through many slices of Comté cheese, never grasping its full beautiful complexity. Made in Franche-Comté, a picturesque area of north-east France stretching between Jura, Bourgogne, Ain and Alsace, this long lasting, hard aged cheese can be subtle or intense depending on its age and when it was produced. Did you know that it takes 450 litres of milk to make one wheel of Comté cheese?
Last week, I was invited to a #CookWithComte event held at the gorgeous Divertimenti store in South Kensington. There I learned that Comté is made up of 83 aromas and that two batches never taste exactly the same.
This is all down to artisanal production methods, using milk sourced from grass-fed cows. As the cows feed on grass throughout the year, from hay in the winter through to flowers in the summer, their milk changes colour and taste. Comté made in winter is ivory coloured, while summer Comté has a deep sunny yellow colour because of the natural carotene of plants.
As it is made with raw milk, local microflora (linked to the farm environment and farming practices) play a role in the development of cheese aromas. The wonders of fermentation and terroir! All these unique elements create Comté’s beautiful and delicious complexity.
So how do you best eat Comté? Well it all depends!
Here is a quick guide to help you:
- 8-12 month Comté: subtle in taste it is great in fondues, soufflés and gratins.
- 16-24 month Comté: bolder in taste and character it is great on its own (cheese platter, snack, salad) or in pasta, quiches, tarts and pies.
For wine pairing, look out for white Alsace wines, Burgundy wines, Champagne, Châteauneuf du Pape, Jura wines (such as Vin Jaune) and apparently even beer and saké!
Back in the Divertimenti kitchen, we were left in the expert hands of chef Laura Pope who showed us how to cook two of her creations: Spinach & Comté Twice-baked Soufflés and an Onion Tart with Apple, Bacon and Comté.
The soufflés make a perfect show-stopper for Easter and you can find the recipe here. Rest assured, there will be no last minute soufflé disaster stories because (as the name gives away) you bake them twice! You can make the soufflés ahead, freeze them or cool them before putting them in the oven for 15-20 mins when your guests have already arrived. They certainly are your ticket to a delicious and impressive appetiser or main course.
Tomorrow I will be sharing another of Laura’s recipes. The Comté, Banana & Vanilla Tatin below is sure to please all the “gourmants” out there. So make sure you check back with me tomorrow!
More information about Comté is available here on Comté Cheese website.