Comté Cheese Making

Comté wheel & tools

I was recently joking that when I’m forced to wake up very early in the morning I’m not sure if I should feel sorrier for myself, or for the people around me. So when my friend Jean-Louis, who works with the people who make Comté cheese finally gave in to my incessant pestering to join him for a visit, I was excited when after three years, he finally said “Oui”. Actually, he speaks very good English. So he said “Yes”.

But when I got the timetable for our few days in the mountains of the Jura, I didn’t need anyone to translate the fact that I saw that we were going to be getting up very, very early in the morning to watch the cheese making.

cheesemaker morning

No matter what it is, from candy to cars, I love seeing how something is made. And I will sacrifice a little sleep if necessary. Living in France, the home of hundreds of cheeses, many still made on a relatively small scale, I always will jump at the chance to meet and see the people making them at work. Even if it means prying myself out of a cozy bed in darkness of winter at 4:47am.

filtering raw milk milk scale

Like a lot of things in French, there are specific words for everything. The cheese production begins, of course, on the ferme where the cows are raised and milked. The milking takes place twice a day on local farms, but since I’ve seen cows being milked, we agreed to meet up when the milk was delivered to the fruitiére.

cheesemaker

The word “fruitière” refers to the place where the milk is delivered every day of the year, with no breaks for holidays, including Christmas or New Years. (Which busts another myth that the French don’t work hard.) The word fruitièrecomes from the French verb ‘fructifier‘ which roughly means ‘to produce’ or ‘to bear fruit’.

raw milk

So the first step in transforming raw milk into cheese, or to get the cheese to ‘bear fruit’, takes place very early in the morning when the still-warm milk is brought to one of the 160 fruitières in the Jura directly by the farmers who’ve milked the cows, where the raw milk is measured and filtered.

stirring milk in copper

All the milk used in the production of Comté cheese comes from within a 25 kilometer (15 mile) radius of the fruitières. It arrives each morning in a large stainless-steel round urn towed by a pickup truck, then is poured into at bin attached to a scale to be weighed. In the past, cow farmers traded milk for cheese since cheese making was originally a way to preserve a bounty of fresh milk for a longer time. Am not sure how it’s done these days, but I am sure a little cheese exchanges hands fairly often between people in the Jura, and everyone seems to win as there’s no shortage of great cheeses in this part of France, enough for everyone to enjoy.

copper stirring pot cheesemaking man

It takes 400 to 450 liters (100 to 120 gallons) of fresh milk to make one 40 kilo (90 pounds) wheel of Comté and the first fruitière we visited only produced two to six rounds of cheese per day. Three people worked there and it was damp and humid, a nice contrast to the rather frosty weather outside. I had to keep wiping down the condensation on my lens, as well as frequently ducking, to avoid being hosed down by the rubber-clad workers who spray everything liberally to sanitize and clean all the surfaces. (I suspected a few were aiming for me, yet I managed to avoid them.)

cooking milk

But except for the La Vache qui Rit factory also located in the Jura, which was allegedly started as a way to use leftover cheeses from the region that weren’t up to snuff and transform it into the bland, but beloved, Laughing Cow processed cheese (and I am busted because I once looked into the kitchen of my local Indian restaurants and found out the secret of their naan fromage was cubes of La Vache qui Rit), there aren’t any giant tanker trucks of milk blasting around the highways of the Jura delivering milk for Comté. This is all artisanal production.

The cheese is produced by a chain-reaction, or as a cooperative; the people who raise the cows provide the milk. The fruitière curdles the milk and presses it into wheels, then the wheels are sent to cool ripening caves in the mountains to age for at least four months. There aren’t any companies that do the whole process from start to finish.

stirring milk for Comté

I found the whole thing quite special—in spite of the crazy/early hour, and for those who follow the ‘eat local’ mantra, it doesn’t get any more local than this. Each Montbéliarde cow seems to have a pretty good life and gets one hectaire (2 1/2 acres) of land to freely graze on. The cows are particularly adaptable to the slightly rugged terrain of the mountains and they’re kept indoors in the cold winters, fed a diet of hay rather than the green grass of summer. And the cheese is made within the first 24 hours of milking.

Comté is an AOP cheese, which means that every step of the way that it’s made is protected and must be followed, meaning that the cows must be Montbéliarde, the milk must be raw, and the wood planks used to ripen the disks must be made of untreated local spruce, amongst other things.

cheesemaker cheese ladles

I was fortunate to be able to follow the process over a number of days, from early morning through nightfall. You’ll notice that in the pictures, some of the milk or cheeses are yellower than the others. It may be surprising to those of us who are used to standardized dairy products, but milk isn’t always pure white. And as the milk gets transformed into cheese via culturing and ripening, the milk and the wheels of cheese go through various processes and transformations during the maturation, which not only affect the taste, but the color and texture.

So if you see a Comté that is bright yellow, that’s made from milk produced by cows that graze in the summer months (en été) when they have their choice of hundreds of flowers to munch on. The flowers have carotine which give the milk (and the cheese) a deep, golden color. And some feel it gives the cheeses a better flavor, like Beaufort d’Été, although if you want to get a cheese from summer milk, you’ll need to do a bit of reverse counting when you buy your Comté.

2 cheesemakers curd shovel

After the raw milk is weighed and filtered, the milk is warmed and rennet (présure) is added, then stirred in. A pot of ‘starter’ is taken from each batch and left in an incubator to add to the next day’s milk. And the one from the previous day is added to the cheese being made right now in the copper vat.



Afterward the milk is left to rest in large copper vats until it forms a giant quivering mass, resembling silky tofu. This step is the caillage, or curdling of the milk, and there’s a pretty wonderful variety of dairy products in France like Caillé that are made this way. Next time you’re in a French fromagerie or crèmerie, peek into some of the earthenware crocks and you’ll often see rustic versions of creamy caillé, a scoopable fresh cheese is meant to be eaten just as is, with a spoon.

copper cauldron

Once the milk for the Comté is thick, the curd is broken up by using a device with a series of thin metal strings. The curds are still soft, creamy, and slippery. I’ve seen a fair number of cheeses being made and I’m still always surprised that in just a few months this slippery stuff is going to become a firm and sliceable cheese one day in the near future.

cheese guitar

After the cheese curd is cut, it’s stirred further until it forms tight wads whose flavor and texture could best be described as “like rubber”. I tasted one and it wasn’t something you’d want to fill up a bowl and park yourself in front to the tv with. I only ate a tiny bit of a piece that was handed to me, and tossed the rest out.

cheesecurds cheese curds

The only way to verify when the curds are the right consistency is by hand. So the expression “lost one’s touch” comes to mind as someone who can no longer tell when the cheese is done by feel. If the curds are left even 30 seconds too long, the cheese will be ruined, so the process at this point must be carefully monitored. And a few times during the morning when I was peering into the copper cauldron, watching them inspect the curds, it seemed like all heck would break loose as immediately they’d all start scrambling to attention to quickly prepare the curds to be deposited into metal molds.

checking curds in hand

Right away the mixture is strained and the run-off whey is filtered. If you’ve ever seen a cosmetic ad touting lactoserum, those are the milk solids from cheese making in the whey. There’s also a local cheese, similar to ricotta salata, that is made by pressing the milky bits left in the whey that run-off and I would love to find some of that in Paris. (If only I could remember what it’s called*…which is the downside of getting up at the crack of dawn.)

unripe Comté dated cheese

(On a side note, what’s especially interesting is that all cheese basically starts the same way. There are some variables, but basically it’s just milk, and what determines the final flavor is the quality of the milk, the thickness of the pâte, the materials used, and how it’s ripened. That it becomes cheese is just amazing to me, especially when I see the process involved.)

Comté curds Comté curds in mold

Large metal molds are filled with the curds then pressed by machine for 24 hours to get the excess liquid out and to compact the curds.

molded Comté

When turned out a day later, the rounds are large rubbery disks that can be flexed and bended. The fellow unmolding these cheeses lifted one up, using the strength of his substantial forearms, he shook it wildly up and down to demonstrate how flexible and bouncy it was. Each round is incredibly heavy and it was surprising at how matter-of-factly everyone at the fruitière (and the ripening caves we visited later) were able to handle the giant disks with seemingly no problems. I’d be moaning and groaning all day. But on the other hand, I’d have amazing arms. So I guess it’s a fair trade off.

Before the cheeses hit the wooden shelves of the ripening caves, each wheel is washed and rubbed with a mixture of yeast and water, then scrubbed with coarse sea salt from the Guérande, the only non-local ingredient in the process. (The Jura is the region in France that’s one of the farthest from the ocean and the only salt nearby is mined and too harsh.) They told me even the rennet was made from the stomach lining of local calves and showed me a twisted sheet of the stuff, which was like crinkly parchment paper.

unmolding comté

The cheeses are left to being their ripening before being shipped to cool caves high up in the mountains to finish the affinage.

cheesemaker testing cream

But the cheeses need to be kept at the fruitière until firm enough to move and this one gentleman had a few decades on me and wasn’t having any problems lifting and flipping the cheeses all by himself. Obviously he’d mastered the right movements to properly balance and flip les meules using his knee and legs, rather than his back.

cheesemaker cheesemaker

During my time in the Jura, I was constantly surprised whenever I was talking to someone about a cheese and in mid-sentence, they’d deftly slip the wooden cheese-lifter (and shown in the photo at the start of the post) under a disk of Comté and flip it up just as easily as if they were flipping over a pancake.

the Jura

When they crew is done with their early morning work, they sit down for a well-deserved breakfast, French-style. When I was in cooking school in France, at 10am the chef would stop the class and bring out a tray of Aligoté white wine and we’d all take a pause for a kir. Ever since then, I’m not all that surprised when being offered a glass of wine in France at an hour that one might not normally consider prudent. But I opted for a cup of dark coffee instead.

cancoillotte lait cru

But also, I couldn’t resist a glass of raw milk from the local dairy that’s used in the cheese making as well. I don’t drink a lot of milk, most of the stuff goes into my morning café au lait (or ice cream), but this was really tasty and I could see why the cheese tasted so good.

Curiously, when I posted a quick snap of the breakfast from my smartphone on Twitter, a response came back expressing dismay about the tableau. I wasn’t sure what that meant because this was such a wonderful and special little moment: we were up here in the mountains with people sitting down to a meal of crusty bread from the boulangerie across the way, whose fogged up windows we passed on our way to the fruitière earlier that morning. There was a bottle of the local vin du Jura to wash down coarsely-cut hunks of the cheese that they’d made themselves, and were enjoying the fruits of their labor and seemed to be content.

cheesemaker breakfast

It was one of those moments that I have in France from time to time, and that happen a lot in the French countryside, where life is decidedly different than in the city. And when I find myself in these situations, I think to myself about how special it is to be sitting here, up near the base of the alps, passing around bread and wine with the cheese makers who likely don’t feel as if they’re doing anything special, it’s just their life. When in fact, what they’re doing is pretty special, I think.

Yes, it was still pretty early and maybe it was the coffee that was starting to kick in, but made me really happy to be sitting at the rickety formica table with the people who make these cheeses day in and day out. And you’d think the last thing that people who spent their whole day curdling milk and lifting wheels of cheese all day would want for breakfast would be more cheese. But here they were, lopping off enormous hunks of Comté and Bleu de Gex, along with thick slices of sausages, and eating them all with gusto.

cancoillotte

Since nothing gets wasted here, I discovered a new cheese byproduct, called Cancoillotte, a local spread made from the milk solids recuperated during the cheese making process.

Once called the cheese of the poor, this thick, creamy spread is now something of a local novelty, so much so that what was once considered the “cheese of the poor” was served to us after dinner at a fairly swank restaurant a few days later. But here, it tasted much better.

Comté cheese label

Part 2: Ripening and Tasting Comté, and (almost) meeting my maker…


Notes

These photos were taken at two fruitières in the Jura: Fromagerie de l’Abbaye (in Chézery), and the Fromagerie de Frasne (2, rue de Bellevue, Frasne, Tél: 03 81 49 82 26).

Both cheese making facilities aren’t normally open to the public but they do have excellent shops attached to them where you can purchase their cheeses and other local products. You can find a list of facilities which offer tours at Les Routes du Comté.

*Jean-Louis notified me the cheese that’s similar to ricotta salata is Le Serra, which I’ve not seen anywhere else.

Comté ripening



Related Links and Posts

Hirsinger Chocolate

Making Morbier and Comté (The Cheesist)

Brie de Meaux

Making Irish Coffee at Ardrahan Cheese

Raclette

How to Make Fondue

Homemade Cottage Cheese

Comté (Official Website)


76 comments

  • Thanks David, this was such a fun post to read, and enjoy with the excellent comte I bought this afternoon! :)

  • Who doesn’t love Comté? Thanks for the post. My hubby is Franc-Comtois so I’ve been exposed to quite a lot of the local products and Comté has to be one of my favourite cheeses. Cancoillotte! Love it! Try it warm over potatoes and saucisse de Montbéliard. Delish!

  • Tanya: It was interesting because before the trip, I was pretty much firmly in the camp that older, aged Comté was better. But I tasted some younger ones, where you can really taste the milk in them, and they were pretty good—if different. I did come back with quite a bit of cheese and I suspect many will indeed be enjoyed with warm potatoes..

  • Cancoillotte a l’ail rose drizzled all over hot baby potatoes… heavenly. I’ve occasionally considered whether it might be worth making a sort of gratin using mostly cancoillote instead of cream, it might come out like a sort of cross between gratin and tartiflette, but I think it might horrify my (very food-conservative) Swiss husband!

    Bleu de Gex is also really nice melted on toast. Or in a panini with tomato.

    *disappears off to fridge to reconsider lunch options*

  • This now motivates me to look for comte.

    Its amazing that a company is not involved in overseeing overall operations, rather different parts of the cooperative works effectively together. Its also amazing that some large multinational has not acquired this yet!

  • We even have this cheese in our local grocery store, and I don’t live in NYC, mind you! Thank you for sharing this with your readers. I, too, love to see how things are made.

  • I really enjoyed this post – thank you so much, David. I’ve always been fascinated by cheese-making, from first reading about it in Little House on the Prairie (or in the Big Woods, to be exact) to whenever I see it on tv. Sadly I’ve yet to see it in real life, but your blog helps bridge the gap :)

  • Dear David,
    I admire how the hues in your Photography echoes the early morning, the temperature inside outside, how you treat milk and cheese, textures, materials. Very beautiful. It must have been a lot of work!
    Gaby

  • The cheese making process is so interesting, and you wrote so beautifully about it here. I would love to have that experience one day!

  • Thanks David……..I love Comté…..and the cheese maker with the scruffy beard is pretty cute too!

  • I blame watching “Sesame Street” and “Electric Company” as a kid in the 70s for why I love to watch things get made. I still remember the episode where they make crayons. They looked so edible.

    I’m glad for your site for things that actually are.

    Awesome post as usual!

  • Wonderful post, thank you David. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in gites on milk-producing farms in Savoie and Lorraine and had a peek at the cheese making process. I’d like to try Cancoillotte, looks super!

  • OOOh. this was a great morning read! thanks so much. there is something so amazing about authentic encounters and recognizing the moments we’ll treasure while they are happening.

  • It never occurred to me where La Vache qui Rit is made. Thanks for that tidbit. I’m amused that it’s had such staying power.

    I’ve got some Comte sitting at home waiting for New Year’s eve so it was all the more fun being there through your writing with the luscious pics. Thanks for the tour!

  • When you look up “food porn” on the internet, this should be the first hit. This is a true and beautiful example of that phrase!

  • beautiful!
    i love seeing how my food is made, and it doesn’t hurt to have it accompanied by such well-written text.
    thanks for this post.

  • What a great post. I feel as though I went right along with you on your gorgeous cheese journey.
    Thank you David!
    ~Mary

  • Brilliant informative post!

  • David, thanks for the great pictures with the description of the cheese making processs. Interesting that no single company does everything from start to finish. Also found it interesting to read about where Vache qui Rit is made. I figured the boxes we find here in Northern CA were made in Wisconsin from what I read on the box.

  • I have to say that I am not willing to read if the sidebar from Amazon – filled with *likes* contains offensive ads. Even if they are your personal likes – I really don’t care to know about them — TMI.

  • You lucky, lucky dog! Or “chien”, I should say. What a life to have such incredible food experiences. And we, too, are lucky when you share it all with us. Thank you for all these wonderful gifts you have given us all year.

    Feliz navidad y prospero año nuevo!

    Kathleen

  • I love watching things being made, too. Even something as seemingly ordinary as recycled paper (I used to work at a mfg’ing plant and the process was facinating to me!) I love your guided tour of the places you visit in France. Your enthusiasm (and funny musings) comes through in your writing and it makes the article so much more than a docu-tour. I love that you can realize and take the time to verbalize, your appreciation of being privy to all of these experiences. I do love to hear that side of you in these articles, it just makes me like you more!

  • Three-Cookies: There’s a lot of interplay between the people that do the milking, fabricating and ripening of the cheeses and they all visit each other and are deeply connected. But they are separate entities yet intertwined.

    Michel: The Vache qui Rit factory does have tours, which I wanted to go on. But someone told me that if you go, you’ll never eat the cheese again (!)

    Tamsin: It’s lovely how it’s all so integrated into life in the Savoie and the Jura. And it’s not fancy-they just make cheese and that’s that.

  • I grew up watching my mom making cheese all the time.
    This is in a much larger scale non the less made me a little homesick. Next time I will go home I will have to ask my mom to make some cheese together.

  • While I love all your posts. I think this is one of my favorites! Comté was hands down our favorite cheese during our visit to Paris.

    Thanks!

  • God, I love Comté – I just picked up some “Comté de Noel”, inspired by what you served at La Cuisine a couple weeks ago. It’s delicious!

  • Sweet Freak: That’s was a particularly good Comté we had that night, wasn’t it? I spent a considerable amount of time eating the few remaining bites after everyone had left. btw: It was an 18 month old Comté and I picked it up at Pascal Trotté, just next to the Saint-Paul church.

    Kristacular: Thanks-glad you liked the post. When I do tours, I always make sure to include a good Comté in our cheese tastings. It’s reliably good and when people have a really good one, I love seeing their faces : )

  • You did an awesome job here – I love the article and the appreciation you express towards the local production :-)
    (I was not much of a cheese eater before I moved to France – I’m living in Savoie which has the very same fruitières ;-))

  • fantastic! This is why we love France….so well described and illustrated.

  • ever since being introduced to all things jura this past summer… obsessed with Comte cheese! love reading/seeing how it’s made! thank you!

  • david, what beautiful photographs!!!

  • Amazing! I love Comte and was captivated by the first pictures. I didn’t even move from my chair, which is quite rare. Thanks for such a well-written article and such beautiful pictures.

  • Thank you David, this was such an interesting and informative post! I’m really fascinated by cheese making, and I’ve even been trying to attempt it at home on a small level. Sadly I haven’t had much success with my early attempt with making fresh mozzarella –what is interesting to me after reading this is that my failed attempts were exactly the way you describe the curd–very VERY rubbery, esp. when heated up. I’m such a novice though that I’m not even sure which of the many variables are wrong in my case.

  • Wonderful post, a slice of life that we can almost smell and taste! What a privilege, to be able to have such a visit. I say ‘Pish’ to any dismay (?) you heard about the photo you posted:: because of the raw milk (?) weird. Am making my 2nd batch of candied peanuts, almonds and cashews. Getting raves about them, love that!!

  • Wonderful photos! Your site is incredibly informative.

  • Forget about the cheese — the scruffy cheesemaker looks delightful and like he would be just at home in Brooklyn ;-)

  • Thank you, David for this wonderful cheesy tour…

    We atleast got to see it through your eyes (..or should I say your blog)..

    Never mind, if we can’t visit there…
    Sampada

  • Thanks, David, for your explanation about Cancoillotte. I just bought a container of it from a french importer in San Mateo without really knowing what it was or how to eat it. It just looked so creamy and good that I couldn’t pass it up! Your description took some of the mystery out of it, thanks!

  • Loved this post, really interesting. Thanks for it!

  • I’m vegan but it’s interesting and refreshing seeing how people make cheese with care and respect, unlike so many factories in the U.S.

  • Reading this post made me feel I was right in the fruitièr with you! We took a tour through a parmigiano reggiano factory in Bologna earlier this year, and this post brought many fond memories back. Wonderful post! Thank you.

  • … do you realize – am sure you do – what a great adventure you are on? Your books, delicious, your blog, great reading, your life, I want it!

  • Thank you so much for this wonderful post. We have an increasing number of cheese makers here in Vermont. The product of small batch cheeses like you describe is a world away from what we tend to get in the stores.

  • Fascinating read, and stunning photos!

  • I studied in Besancon in the 70’s, and this post just made me so nostalgic! The family I lived with served Cancoillotte all the time. As I remember, she would buy it dry and make it on the stove. I see in an earlier comment that someone bought it here in the US — I didn’t think it was available. Oh, I want to live in France again!!

  • David, this is a treasure, one of your best postings yet. I can almost taste the bread and comte. Thank you for opening so many windows into French life.

  • Wonderful post! In New Zealand our cows graze outside all year, so the colour of our butter varies quite a bit. It’s a very deep yellow in spring. It’s never occurred to me that other countries’ dairy products look the same all year round.

  • The photographs! So serene and atmospheric. The latter built into the site, I know, but your eye is focused and your composition clean. Although “clean” also is built into the site. Hmmm. You have a second life as an art photographer — go find a gallery.

  • What a beautifully written peice. Happy Holidays ,dear David , thank you for all of the smiles and the great information you give all year long.

  • i adore comte cheese! i use it to make my quiche alsacienne which you can find the recipe in foodielady.com . also love it sliced with your favorite selection of “salumeria” and fresh crusty bread. the pictures are lovely and make me wish i was your assistant to have experienced the visit with you. i guess a foodie’s dream vacation! je! wishing everyone happy holidays from puerto rico! this is one of the best posts with so much info and so much charm. beautifully written! congrats david! merci!

  • Such a beautiful post…I would love to be sitting at a ‘rickety formica table’ right now with those fellows and partake that deliciousness with them. fromage, du pain, du vin, c’est parfait!

  • Thank you David! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I will now have a renewed appreciation of this process the next time I visit the cheese counter at Whole Foods. And, rightly so, you are lucky to have spent time with these talented people… it’s enviable.

  • Hi David! What a great post! Thank you very very much!

  • Uh, this post is so outstanding I can hardly handle it. When are you going to make your first documentary?

    Move over Cheese Nun!

  • And for some holiday pastry humor– please feel free to read my post about my leaky quiche. You can make fun of me if you want. I am no David Lebovitz!

  • The whole process (and your trip) sound fascinating! Thanks for transporting us to cheeseland.

  • Fantastic post. Very jealous of your experience.

  • This presentation is delicious! Here is “food for thought”, the learning of a process that
    was always the mystery. Fabulous food world. That one man has an apron just like
    mine. … Naw. I’ll stick to what I do.
    You get to meet the key people. And if you like, you go inside to their world. You get to
    eat the best of the best. You learn first rate. It’s a good life, what a seasoned chef has
    found along the way.

  • Thanks for an inspiring and informative post. While I am only in France a very short time, I appreciate that this is a place where there is respect for craft, and a connection to the earth- Be it a cheesemaking cooperative like you’ve written about, or the local boucherie, where the gentleman behind the counter proudly sent me home with the sausage he’d made that morning.

  • Alex: The Savoie is lovely and the food (and cheeses) are great there, too. Make sure you visit Chartreuse and Bonnat in Voiron! The Charteuse-filled chocolates are amazing from Bonnat..

    Stefan: Yes, it’s interesting once you know a little bit about the cheese, then you can make a better decision when facing the cheese counter. It’s nice when you can talk to the people and in the states, they usually give you a taste (which they don’t do in France—you basically need to be confident in the fromager) so you can make a decision before you buy.

    Mario: I’m sure he would love to move to Brooklyn. He just needs the plain shirt, rolled up jeans, and the keychain dangling from his waist to complete the tableau.

    Thea: Thanks! It was tough taking photos in there because of all the steam and condensation on the lens of my camera. Plus locals aren’t exactly great at stopping for a brief second so you can take their photo. But I hope I captured what they do and the loveliness of it all.

    Carrie: There are some great cheese makers in America now, which is a wonderful thing. Do check your local greenmarket or farmer’s market and meet some of them, if you can. There are some icky industrial cheese in France, as in America. But it’s nice to see people making good cheese in time-honored ways continuing to thrive and be appreciated in spite of the uptick in industrialization here, and there.

  • A great read! I clicked on the link to Sel de Guérande and noticed that you mentioned M. Dion at the Richard Lenoir market. We love this “sel”. Maybe you can help me get M. Dion’s address. My husband, a professional photographer took some great photos of him this summer and we promised to send him some, and then, unfortunately lost his address. We’d love to follow through!
    Merci,
    Jackie

    Unfortunately he’s no longer at the market & I don’t have an address for him. -dl

  • wonderful, educational, fascinating post! truly enjoyed this most informative & detailed process of producing the comte.thanks!

  • You’re adorable David — the French should give you a medal!

  • Loved every minute of this vicarious visit! Thank you.

    I used to have a policy with the kids at holiday time that I only accepted handmade gifts. So my son ordered rennet online and made mozzarella cheese for me while I was away on a trip. It was perfect and I’m passing this post along to him.

    Can’t wait to read about your slippery slope almost meeting with your maker!

  • You mention that great cheese comes from high quality milk. How true! Like wine, cheese reflects the terroir – the place where the cows graze, the vegetation, the weather. I’d like to see a follow-up showing how the dairy herds are managed. It’s a fascinating process, with so many variables.

  • Great post – wish we had had more time to do experience more of the Alps this past summer, but were only there for 1 day. But now I have Comte, Le Serra, Cancoillotte, and Bleu de Gex written down to try to find tomorrow on my shopping trip to Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati.

  • You captured the places and the process completely and beautifully. What a great reporter you’d have been if your talents hadn’t led you on a sweeter path. Congratulations on Ready for Dessert being chosen as one of the Washington Post’s top cookbooks of 2010!

  • Loved this post, great experience. Loved the photos too. thanks

  • Such an interesting post, thank you for sharing!

    I too am in awe of the European, especially French, ways of going about a day. My mom, who isn’t French and has never been out of the country, would take local baguettes, wine, cheese, and occasionally fruit (her currant tales make me envious!) skiing with her when my grandfather & her would travel to New York a few times a winter, just to have lunch. That idea is so over romanticized in my brain!

    Have a Happy Holiday, everyone!

  • So exciting! Happy holidays et joyeux nouvelle année!

  • David, happy to read this post and to know that you were able to wake up early.
    It made me want a piece of Comte really bad. Too bad that stuff doesn’t make it to China. As always great pictures. Keep on the good work.

  • Great post.

    Holy cow, indeed!

    Season’s best to you and yours.

    Chef Deb, the Fridge Whisperer.

  • Every time I think I have seen the best of your e-mails and that they cannot get any better, I am transported.

    The Comte cheese article was just extraordinary!! And, I have just read your “The Sweet Life in Paris’ book, which I purcahsed on Amazon. It is amazing and wonderful. My daughter and I have traveled and stayed in Paris for extended visits and love it there. Merry Christmas and a most happy New Year. You make my day with your remarkable work. Cecilia Almeida.

  • David,

    Okay, okay, Comté aside (jesting), how about that handsome guy in the picture above the paragraph about fruitière? Wow. I truly did read the post, and as always, your stunning photography, passionate writing, and genuine desire to teach and share with your audience is much appreciated. I enjoy reading about your experiences and perspectives.

    Gosh, I hope I don’t come across as unctuous! :)

  • I wish I could hug this post.. and you! Not only do I absolutely love Comte and love reading more about it, but now I’ve just discovered something else I have to try.. cancoillotte!

  • Comte is one of my absolute favorite cheeses (and that’s saying a lot given that I love so many!). What a fantastic post!!! Once again, I leave jealous (of you) and sad (that I wasn’t there). I so wish I had a block of comte and some crackers right now!