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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Laguiole AOP Cheese. One of France's finest cheeses.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Two-year-old Laguiole cheeses.
Laguiole AOP cheese, also called the Tomme de Laguiole AOP, is a 45% fat, cow’s milk cheese, made with unpasteurized milk; it has a light golden color with a pleasant smell and a light and slightly fruity taste. The cheese is aged from 4 to 24 months.  From a blind tasting of what I was told were a six month and an 18 month Laguiole AOC Vieux, the young cheese was excellent while the 18-month-old cheese was both enjoyable, unique and had a slight bite.

The Aubrac cow.
Photograph courtesy of Olivier Bacquet

The Laguiole AOP cheese may only be made with milk from the Simmental and Aubrac cows, either when freely grazing, on the Aubrac high basalt plateau between 800 and 1400 meters or, in the winter, when fed on grasses collected from the Aubrac plateau during the summer.  Milk production and refining of cheese must be carried out in the geographical area of the Aubrac where less than 80 farms in the departments of Aveyron, Cantal and Lozère are authorized to provide milk for this cheese. The cheese is named after the village of Laguiole. The village Laguiole and the cheese’s name Laguiole AOC is pronounced is lay-ole, do not pronounce the g.  
There are another seven AOP kinds of cheese linked to the Aubrac Plateau, and they have their own French language website.  Use the Google or Bing translation apps and all will be very clear.  In any case six of these cheese have their own links.These special cheeses are Laguiole, Salers, Cantal, Fourme d’Ambert, Pélardon, Rocamadour, Saint-Nectaire et Bleu d’Auvergne).
Buying Laguiole Cheese
 Should you decide to you take a whole Laguiole AOC cheese home you may encounter some difficulties; the smallest cheese weighs 20 kilos, and others weigh up to 50 kilos.  I imagine all airlines would appreciate the extra income when you bring along one of these cheese as excess baggage.  To avoid problems buy a large wedge, maybe one kilo, pack it well in a plastic bag, or If possible buy from a professional fromager, a cheese shop, most of whom will offer packaging in vacuum bags. As this is not a soft cheese, it should travel well even if the bag is not vacuumed. Once home keep this, and all hard yellow cheeses, wrapped in plastic wrap in a refrigerator, but not in the freezer. When you open your cheese and cut a wedge rewrap your cheese and return it to the fridge; it should keep well for 8 -10 weeks if you let it last that long.  Laguiole, the village, is in the department of Aveyron in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées.  For more about buying cheese in France and taking it home click here.

The village of Laguiole.
The cows graze freely on pastures in the meadows of Aubrac during the summer,  and hay collected in the same area in the summer is fed in the winter. Silage, grass, and corn are prohibited, and milk production is limited to 6000 liters per cow per year. One of the most popular dishes made with a young Lagouille cheese, an unsalted Tome (Tomme)  Fraîche d’Aubrac, is Aligot. Aligot is a traditional, and very tasty, potato and cheese based dish.

The recipe is also claimed as their own by two neighboring departments: the Auvergne, and Lozère.  For an Aligot, a young local cheese, (that differs with each department), is mixed into mashed potatoes along with garlic, crème fraiche,  milk, and butter. This combination is carefully stirred until long threads of cheese and potato may be drawn from the pot. The aligot will usually be served with a small salami type sausage. In an upscale restaurant, the aligot may have slices of beef added.

In the winter choose your ski level in Lagouile
There is more to Aveyron than its excellent cheese.

The department of Aveyron is a beautiful place for fishermen and women as it has five major rivers plus hundreds of streams and tens of lakes.  The area is also home to the Bœuf Fermier d'Aubrac, Label Rouge, their mostly free range Aubrac beef-cattle.  Other farms offer excellent free-range chickens, ducks, and geese. All local menus will offer some choices from these excellent Aveyron products.

The cutlery of Laguiole

The village of Laguiole is also famous for “La Maison du Laguiole”, the creators of the Laguiole knife.  Their knives, other cutlery, kitchen equipment, and their very individual corkscrews are appreciated all over the world. If you are in the area, worry not, they do have a factory outlet shop for visitors!  Many French sommeliers pride themselves on only using Laguiole corkscrews; this is the Rolls Royces of the limonadier type of corkscrew.

An original Maison du Laguiole “Limonadier”

The French for a corkscrew is Tire-Bouchon, the most famous of these French corkscrews in the “Limonadier”  also called the Couteau Sommelier. 

A cheese set from La Maison du Laguiole
The name Limonadier comes from the trade of its original users, for whom this particular corkscrew was created, they were soft drink vendors. Three hundred years ago most wines were not sold in bottles, they were sold in barrels, soft drinks were sold in bottles, and they were sealed with a cork. When this corkscrew was created only a few fine wines were corked, and 99% of the population never saw them.  The Limonadier is the corkscrew with a lever to assist in pulling the cork out. The name came from the shops also called Limonadiers who were early 17th-century soft drink shops and also the names of the profession of those who sold soft drinks. These stores opened the bottles of the non-alcoholic beverages they sold with the corkscrew called the Limonadier.  Three-hundred years later The French national association that represents café owners is still called the Syndicat National des Limonadiers. 

A Modern Limonadier
Modern versions may have a bottle opener at the other end and today all have a “décapsuleur”, a knife to cut off the top of the foil or plastic covering of the cork.  The Limonadier is the only corkscrew used by any self-respecting French sommelier or server. 
If you are visiting Aveyron

The local Aveyron Tourist Information Offices will give you a list of over 100 wineries, farms, dairies and other local producers in the department who open their farms and wineries to visitors. N.B. When visiting farms and wineries, a small contribution to the local economy is expected.  You may also have the list sent to you long before you leave home and are planning your visits.

The Aveyron Tourist Information English language website is:

I have intentionally avoided recommending restaurants, as chefs and menus change; however, in the case of the village of Laguiole I have made an exception. If your credit card is in good shape then consider the three Star Michelin Guide restaurant above the village; it is owned and run by one of France’s true master-chefs, Michel Bras, and his son. Michael Bras studied under Ferdinand Point, the master chef who in the 1950's created modern French cuisine then called Cuisine Nouveau.  Fifty years with the same chef and three Michelin Stars is long enough to consider making a recommendation

The Michal Bras  English language website is:
When ordering wine in this area consider their Marcillac AOP, the most famous red wine of Aveyron and also try the local IGP Aveyron (previously the Aveyron Vin de Pays). These wines include whites, roses, and red.

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu  
Copyright 2016.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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