One of the oldest French cheeses
Cantal cheese is a hard or semi-hard cheese that has the form of a large bright yellow cylinder.
It is produced in the Monts du Cantal and is one of the oldest French cheeses as it is known that our Gallic ancestors already produced it more than two thousand years ago!
The Fourme de Cantal made an official entry in style as it was served – along with the St-Nectaire and Salers as you might remember – on the table of King Louis XIV thanks to Henri II de Senectere, Count of Auvergne.
There are two kinds of Cantal, the fermier (farmhouse cheese) that is produced from raw milk and represents 80% of the annual production, and the laitier (diary cheese) that is produced on large scale from pasteurized milk.
The Cantal is made from Salers cow’s milk, and exclusively from the milk produced during the winter season (November 15 to April 15) when the cows are in the barn and fed hay.
Once collected the milk is inoculated with rennet (a natural enzyme found in the cows’ stomach) to trigger coagulation.
The curd is cut down into small grains whose size vary between those of wheat and maize kernels.
The grains are drained from their whey and packed tightly in a compact mass or cake.
This curd cake undergoes progressive pressing, before being sliced in individual cheeses.
The sliced curd cake is turned upside down at least twice.
The individual cheeses are turned out and left to settle for a minimum of 10 hours, a phase that promotes the development of lactic acid bacteria in milk.
They are then covered in salt and left for one hour minimum then are placed in a mould lined with a thin linen.
It is at this stage of production that a green label is placed on the Cantal fermier, and a brown one of the pasteurized Cantal (laitier).
The cheeses are once more progressively pressed for 12 hours for a small Cantal and 18 hours for large one.
They go through a ripening phase of 1 to 6 months and develop a stronger flavour as they mature.
The Cantal Vieux hardens through the months and can be kept up to a year! Patience is the mother of all virtues…