Region: Auvergne, France
Milk: Raw Cow’s Milk
Cantal cheese is the oldest French cheese. It was born some 2000 years ago in the very center of France in the mountainous region of the Massif Central (central mountain mass). The region is called Auvergne.
The cheese is shaped like a cylinder, one foot in diameter. Cantal was originally produced by putting the curd into “le formage”, a wooden cylinder, which is believed to be the origin for the French word for cheese. Named after the Cantal Mountains in Auvergne, Cantal Cheddar cheese has been dear to the French throughout history.
In medieval times it was the courtly custom to send a gift of Cantal cheese to impress or to people one admired.
Cantal is made from pasteurized cow’s milk with the curd being heated before pressing. Cantal is an AOC cheese that has a smooth, grayish-brown rind with a smooth, pale yellow, close-textured interior.
Over the years, its reputation has appealed to more and more cheese lovers. The form of the cheese is massive and dumpy, with a soft interior. Auvergne is a region known for a thousand volcanoes, blessed by mountain storms and summer sun, the pasture lands are extremely fertile. Cantal cheese captures all the richness of these pasture lands. A well-ripened Cantal has a vigorous taste, whereas a young cheese has the sweetness of raw milk. The paste is firm and homogeneous, with a thick, smooth, dry, grayish-brown rind. Its smell is of the good earth and rich pasture lands. The taste has a tangy butter taste. A fine example of a country cheese.
To serve Cantal, cut it en biseau, assuring that each slice includes a small piece of the rind. This is the correct way to cut and serve most cheese. Try Cantal in a French ploughman’s platter, in soups or sauces, or to flavour biscuits or gratins. Like many cheeses, Cantal marries well with grapes, apples, pears, and other fruits as well as nuts such as walnuts or hazelnuts. Serve it with a rugged bread to complement its rugged flavour.
A large spectrum of fruity red wines as well as white wines are the friends of Cantal. Perhaps a Beaujoulais or a white wine from the Savoy region such as an Apremont, but do try whatever you think will complement this sharp, salty cheese.
As a French Poet once said: “To elaborate on Cantal is an error of taste; it is all simplicity”