Comté dairy farmers bring
their milk to a fruitière (far left),
where expert cheesemakers
craft wheels of cheese.
DU GRUYÈRE DE COMTÉ
A land of quaint villages, pampered
cows and delicious cheese
By Kathy Baruffi
I TOOK AN early train from Paris to visit a
farm in eastern France where Montbéliarde
cows graze and to watch Comté cheese being
made from their fresh milk, as it is done
every morning of the week.
In addition to Comté’s irresistible flavor,
with its fruity, milky, roasted and buttery
notes, this popular French cheese has a high
ratio of calcium to phosphate and is rich in
vitamins A and C. It is often recommended
for children, pregnant women and the elderly
for its nutritive benefits. The farmer and the
cheesemaker I met both attributed their slenderness to having Comté in their diets.
After my two-hour train journey, I went
by car to Mièges, a village not far from the
Swiss border. Miles of vineyards are planted
in the rolling hills along the way, followed by
vast expanses of grassland surrounded by forest on both sides of the winding roads.
The main road of Mièges, with its cluster of
sturdy farmhouses, a boutique-size dairy and a
weathered barn with a new addition housing a
new tractor, was peaceful until dozens of cows
came parading out of the barn after their morning milking. Known for their huge girth, handsome brown “dresses” (this is how farmer
Jean-François Marmiera proudly described
their appearance to me) and good nature, the
cows each wear a signature bell with its own
sound, unique as a fingerprint, to help identify
them in fog or if they wander off.
The Costco Connection
Costco features Comté cheese, along with a
variety of other fine European and domestic
cheeses, in most warehouses. Match them
with your favorite Kirkland Signature™ wine.
As the cows paraded through town on
their way to spend the day lolling in the pasture and snacking on the grasses and wildflowers growing in the field next to the church,
they sounded like a street band in New York.
When it comes to making Comté cheese,
quality is prized above quantity, and strict
rules are enforced to maintain the high standard. Happily for the cows, 2. 5 acres of grazing land is required for each of them. Once
the cheese has been made and after the first
few weeks of aging in the dairy cellar, wheels
are transferred to long-term aging caves in the
Fort des Rousses, originally built by Napoleon.
Some of the vaulted rooms and tunnels, large
enough for 2,500 men and their horses, have
been modernized with state-of-the-art computers for climate control and robots that
move wheels of Comté cheese from the towering shelves.
The dairy I visited, one of 170 authorized
to make Comté cheese, has three huge copper
pots, stainless steel vats, gauges and hoses
galore, and an aging cellar downstairs. The
cheesemaker, Hubert Michel, wearing white
rubber boots and a white rubber apron, is
passionate about his part in making the perfect cheese. Working with the precision of a