Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served.
Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and
that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
flora in the Jura Massif are
extremely diverse and, depending on where the Montbeliarde or Simmentalcows graze there will
be grasses with different wild flowers and herbs; thesedifferences are reflected in the milk and,
ultimately, in slightly varying flavors and colors of the cheese.French law forbids
any use of coloring additives for its cheeses and butters and so in the summer
the cheese will be a bright yellow from the milk as the cows graze in the high pastures.Cheeses produced by the same cows in the
winter are lighter colored as the cows are fed with in their winter barns with
local grasses collected in the summer and a limited amount of grains; no silage
can be fed to these cows at any time and also forbidden are antibiotics and
growth hormones.The slightly
different tastes in the cheeses produced at different times of the year will
not be noted except by the experts who buy the cheese for distribution, and, of course, some
real cheese mavens.
Comtewas the first cheese everto pass all the French restrictions and requirements
and to be awarded an AOC, now AOP
The AOP logo.
The Comte is one of France’s most widely appreciated cheeses and
has been produced for over 700 years, some claim 1,000 years. Thesign of Comte’s true significance in modern France was its success as
the first cheese everto pass all the
restrictions and requirements for an AOC rating, and that was in
1958.More important for all cheese
lovers is the fact that Comte is one of the only cheeses where each and
cheese is checked and graded before being permitted to carry the Comte
The farmers no longer make the cheese
themselves; rather they belong to cheese making, co-operative, dairies, called fruiteres
in the Jura.Each dairy serves 15 to twenty farmers and none will be more than 25 kms, 16
miles, from each farmer’s herd. Every fruitiere
works 365 days a year as the milk used for the Compte cheese must never
wait for more than 24 hours before becoming cheese. The cows are milked twice a
day and so it will be extremely rare for their milk to wait even 12 hours
before the cheese making process begins.
After the cheese is produced, the hugely importanttask of cheese aging begins; each dairy will
take their young cheeses to one of approximately twenty Jura maisons
d’affinage, aging cellars.Each
dairy will choose the aging cellar most suitable for the cheese they have produced as each
aging cellar has different heat ranges; the fruitieres have the experience to determine which cellar
will be the best for each group of cheeses. Comte cheeses are aged for a
minimum of 4 months with the best cheeses being aged for one to two, or even
more, years. Comte like other firm yellow cheeses, including Salers, cheddar,
and others are best when well aged.
The testing of every single cheese labeled Comte
Every single cheese Comte AOPcheese is tested, and while the taste make some 50% of the grading the external appearance of the cheese and defects such as external cracks and holes also
affect the final grade.Cheeses with
over 15 points, out of a maximum of twenty, earn the right to use a green label
and also tobe called Comte Extra.
Cheeses with grades of 12 to 15 points are labeled with brown labels and marked
Comte AOP.Importantly, cheeses
with less than 12 points may not be sold as Comte and will be sold to
commercial cheese producers for cheese spreads and other cheese flavorings.
Despite the honor that many French men and women associate with the
green label and the words Comte Extra, the taste of the brown labeled Comte
cheese is rarely very different to the green.Do not pay more, without tasting, for that green label; within the
grading system the shape and appearance of the outsideof the cheese can addone or more points just as a poor looking cheese
can have a fine taste but lose a point or two because of a poor exterior
surface. The cheese marked Comte Extra and the less valued Comte
may have exactly the same taste and within
both the Comte cheeses,there are
usually small holes; this is a natural part of the cheese making process and
does not affect the taste in any way.
Les Routes du Comte, the Comte
you visit the Jura, an incredibly beautiful part of France, then, either when you arrive, or even
before you leave home, call the French Government Tourism Office; ask for a
copy of theirLes Routes du Comte, the Comte
cheese routes.This map offers a variety
of routes and offers access from all parts of the cheese making areas; the routes will
take you past farms, dairies and maturing cellars, as well as vineyards,
wineries, local cheese museums, and of no less importance, a variety of
The Jura in summer.
To add to your enjoyment of breathtaking scenery inthe center of the French Jura are
beautiful lakes; overall this is a much less traveled part of France. Even the Prefecture of Jura, the provincial
capital, Lons-le-Saunier, have only
20,000 inhabitants. The Jura Massif includes most of the region ofFranche-Comte and part of the departements
of Saone-et-Loire in Burgundy
and Ain andHaute Savoie
in the Rhone-Alpes. If you arrive in winter
you may still enjoy the cheese, but the mountains and valleys of the Massif will be covered with snow; however, take your skis as they provide some of the best skiing in France.
The Jura in Winter,
Jura also has a exceptionally well designed route de vins, its
wine route; this one is called La Route Touristique des Vins. A lot of thought went into planning this wine route;
it includes, apart from vineyards and vintners,cheese producers and other places of agricultural,
gastronomic and historical interest along with
nature walks and much more.Take theComte cheese route map along with their wine route
and see how they interconnect; then take the combined route.
The Menus in the departments of the Jura Massif.
This blog is about
what you may find on and behind French menus so a small amount of information on JuraMassif restaurant menus is essential; the Massif provides fresh local crayfish and fish from local streams and rivers along with
poultry and ham and other pork products from the many farms.The Jura’s offerings also include locally made and
smoked sausages,and many other
wonderful local cheeses; leading the list of local cheeses together with the Comte
AOP will be their excellent cow’s milk blue cheese called Le Bleu de Gex
AOP, it is also called the Bleu
de Haut Jura AOC. To put these and other ingredients together are many truly excellent chefs.
The Wines of the Jura.
The wines that will
be recommended to accompany the local cheeses will the two most famous wines of
the Jura:the Vin Jaune,
their yellow wine, and their Vin de Paille, their straw wine; these are
serious options when considering dessert wines anywhere in France.To accompany your meals try their Arbois
AOC, reds, roses and whites along with their glorious sparklingCremant de Jura. See my post:Cremants are the best value in French sparkling wines.
The most famous local liquor, not a wine,
from the Jura is the Macvin AOC; it comes with an ancient tradition, and
from my investigations it is so ancient that no one seems to be very clear
about it when it all began!The Macvin AOC is
produced in a similar manner to Pineau de Charente of Cognac and Pommeau
from Normandy.It is an eau-de
vie mixed with an unfermented grape juice and is drunk cold as an aperitif
or as a desert wine.For more about Pommeau
see my post: The Magnificent Ciders of France.
Taking Comte AOP cheese
If you wish to take a whole Comte AOP cheese home you may have
some difficulty with one of these cheeses in your hand luggage;the average Comte AOP cheese weighs
between to 30 to 48 kilos!In a fromagerie, a cheese shop, anywhere in France, order a one
kilo wedge, or more if you wish, and have the shop vacuum pack the
cheese; failing vacuum packing use plenty of tightly wrapped plastic wrap. At
home,the ComteAOP cheese
will keep well when refrigerated like a cheddar, but do not freeze it; from
experience the thicker the cheese the better.See the post:Buying Cheese in France. Bringing French Cheese Home.