My son woke me up at 2:30 this morning-he was sick with a fever. After I gave him some Tylenol and tucked him in, I tossed and turned for a while, thinking about cheese. I realize-with chagrin-that I have been judging these cheeses a little harshly. Cheese is all about transformation. How do we-and how did our ancestors-transform this magical product from essentially milk, mould and salt, into a divine substance that can last months-years-without spoiling? I realized, (at 2:45 in the morning,) that eating this cheese out of he fridge and then rating it gauchely (well, yes, it does warm up for a bit) is like judging a butterfly for its beauty is it hangs with wet wings to the edge of the pupae. Many cheeses-particularly these firm cheeses, still need to transform before one can appreciate their beauty. Melting, grilling, toasting, spreading-these are all integral parts of the transformation. Please forgive me, oh Gods of cheese, for my rash judgement!
With that in mind I turn my thoughts to todays cheese. Interesting, I have already sampled Comte Juraflore, and Tomme de Montagne-now I come to Comte Montagne-one can see how this tasting gets confusing! By tasting cheeses of a similar ilk, I have been undertaking (unbeknownst to me) a horizontal tasting of cheese…unlike the vertical tasting of a typical cheese plate. This allows one to compare-side by side-very similar cheeses.
According to the wrapper of the Comte Montagne (Country Mountain), it is aged 24 months ( it’s a toddler!) and is an AOC cow’s milk cheese made from unpasteurized milk. It’s from the area of Jura, France and is made “exclusively from Montbilliard cattle…this cheese is produced and aged at above 1150 mt (sic) where it is further aged in the caves at the Fort des Rousses.” The really crazy part of this is the the Fort de Rousses was an actual fort made by Napolean in the 18th century. When the fort was decommisioned in the 1990’s a former soldier purchased it and the forts natural cellars, i.e. caves, i.e. dungeons-(ok, this is just my reading of the facts) into the new maturing houses, or “maison d’affinage” of Comte. This is dungeon aged cheese, now that is seriously interesting, regardless of the taste.
Comte cheese is another ancient cheese with a great history. The inhabitants of the Jura Mountains needed a solution to surviving the heinous winters-only massive cheeses kept long enough. Comte’s longevity and its improvement with ripening made it a great export too. Farmers pooled their milk supplies to create this cheese both for their own family and for sale. Documents dating as far back to the Middle Ages describe these communal fromageries-many of which (175) still exist, today producing Comte according to tradition-it is an AOC cheese, after all.
My tiny little sliver of Comte Montagne seems barely able to live up to this great history.. It’s pale and wan, and tells no tales of dungeons or Medieval Fromage collectives. The smell is mild and sweet. The cheese body is pale yellow with a dark brown rind.
Here goes…this is another sweet cheese, like Comte Juraflore, it must be something in the milk. It’s brown and nutty flavoured on the tongue. The texture is ok, not sublime, it’s a tiny bit pasty. There is that funny alcohol aftertaste I have come to associate with many mountain cheeses. It’s hard to beleive this cheese is 24 months old-it doesn’t taste like rot in the least, it’s very mild. I’m going to melt a little bit and see how it transforms.
…OMGODDESS! Alright, now here’s a cheese that needed some heat. Melting it has turned it into utterly sublime. So delicious, so fruity and sweet, heaven sent. Melt this cheese. Shouldn’t it come with a sticker that says that? Wow.
Comte Montagne, I give you a 5 out of 5 while melted only, this does include a bonus mark for being dungeon ripened, but you deserve it.