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Life remains tricky, and difficult, and unpredictable. Normally (one of the keywords of the present crisis) I had planned a trip to the Jura region for this time of the year, etc etc. – but hey. Nevertheless (another keyword) Comté is my cheese for this summer month. Reliable. Calm. Good.
The reasons for this? Well, arguably because a whole region, since centuries, has managed to stick together. Presumably it’s not been always and for everybody freely chosen and a totally smooth ride (that’s the thing about being in it together), but in the end and after all it’s been for the best for the large majority of all involved parties. The dairy farmers have their Montbéliard or Simmenthal cows grazing on the Jura’s mountain pastures. The milk goes to the fruitières, cheesemakers’ cooperatives, who work it – untreated, raw – into large wheels. Then it’s the turn of the affineurs and their caves, to mature those embryos to grown-up cheeses and finally get them to the cheese counters of France and the world at large. Comté on principle is the result of consent – and that’s one more reason why it fits in right now, as we all have to find our ways in unknown situations, together. How much of the space is for me, how much for the other, how much certainty, how much doubt, trust, control?
The immense success of Comté (the top seller amongst all cheeses in France) is also due to rigorous, efficient quality control. And to the fact that a single, and therefore widely known kind of cheese at the same time offers considerable diversity. That in turn is due to time, ranging from the AOC regulated minimum of four months to up to three years. Plus there are the different house styles of the affineurs. Ask your cheesemonger about this, buy Comté at different places, and compare! We did exactly that some years ago at Heinzelcheesetalk #25 and it was super interesting.
For all those reasons: Comté it is, for August. A manifestation of consent AND serving all kinds of summer moments, be it in town or country, for picnics on the beach or the mountains, in a sandwich or preceeded by a salad, at the dinner table. No matter if you’re coming to it hungry, stressed out and tired, or bright awake and excited. Comté. Is. Always. Good.
I just noticed that I’m sounding as if I was getting paid to write PR copy. Which I ain’t, on my word of Heinzelcheese honour. I bought this beautiful wedge this very morning at Alte Milch, the fabulous cheesemongers at Berlin’s Markthalle Neun. Aged 18 months, and still quite “juicy”, slightly sweet in a very pleasant way, with quite a few discreet crystals – Marcel Petite’s caves are located in the cold chambers of the old Fort Antoine, where the wheels mature very slowly. That means more aromatic complexity without any harshness and without the drying out that often comes with age.
Try to keep doing your best of these strange times, which call for a balancing act between distance and togetherness – cheesio.
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