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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saint Nectaire Fromage - Saint Nectaire Cheese. Saint Nectaire is an AOP Cow's Milk Cheese from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Sainte-Nectaire Cheese

The town of Saint Nectaire .

The small town of Saint Nectaire is in the department Puy-de-Dôme in the region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.  The town was known as a spa in Roman times and today offers modern spa facilities, the ancient roman spa may be visited.  The cheese called Saint Nectaire is, obviously, named after the town, and has been produced since the 17th century. Some of the cheese is also produced over the department border in the department of Cantal.    

Saint Nectaire Cheese
The cheese is a 45% fat, cows’ milk cheese aged for at least 28 days for the original cheese and 21 days for the newer and smaller Petit-Saint-Nectaire.  Despite those ages being the legal minimums it takes four to five weeks to really age a Petit-Saint-Nectaire and six weeks to age a farm-made full-size cheese. Some cheeses will be aged for two to three months. The aging is of great importance since the matured Saint Nectaire is soft cheese  with little-ragged holes throughout; the cheese should be spreadable at room temperature   Better to buy a farm aged cheese in a Fromagerie, a cheese shop, than a dairy produced cheese that may have been placed too early on a supermarket shelf. A properly aged cheese has a soft, spreadable paste, of a creamy color with a hint of hazelnut and mushrooms and a memorable smell. The farm made cheeses are all made with unpasteurized milk; the dairies produce the cheese with pasteurized cheese and unpasteurized cheese for export. The pasteurized cheese may be taken into the USA. For information on buying cheese in France and taking it home, with all the French you will need, click here.
The cheese is made in two round-shaped sizes, the regular Saint-Nectaire weighs some 1800 gms (4 lbs) and the  “Petit-Saint-Nectaire”  weighs about 600 grams  (23 ounces).

The cheeses are washed regularly in salt water on rye straw mats on which the cheese ages. Depending on how old the cheese is, the rind can be white, brown or gray, and with orange, yellow, or red patches. If the cheese's rind has a uniform color, it may not be sold as a Saint-Nectaire cheese.

The Fermier,  farm produced cheeses are marked with a small oval label in a green frame and  a white square label marks the dairy, Laitier, cheeses. In 1996, an AOP, a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)  rating was given to "Saint-Nectaire and later to the Petit-Saint-
A Fermier Saint Nectaire

Photograph courtesy of  the Fromagerie "Les Alpages" Saint Nectaire

In Saint Nectaire there is a museum, which shows the history and the methods of production of Saint-Nectaire. It is called La Maison du Saint-Nectaire”, the House of Saint-Nectaire. Their website is in French but is easily translated and understood using the Bing or Google translation apps. The Museum is located in the village of Saint-Nectaire, on the main road to Murol
Saint Nectaire on French Menus
Fondue au St Nectaire, Jambon d'Auvergne et Saucisson, Salade Mêlée A  Saint-Nectaire cheese fondue accompanied by Auvergne cured ham, an  Auvergne sausage, and a mixed salad.  A traditional Auvergne sausage is a small salami type sausage, about 100 grams (3.5 oz), made with pork, pork fat and beef. When served in a dish like this the sausage is often grilled though it may be eaten cold.

The winter road to Saint Nectaire
Visiting is best done in the summer.
Les Poires au Saint Nectaire  - Pears served with Saint Nectaire.  This may be on a restaurant instead of a cheese plate which will include three or four different cheeses.

Tarte Chaude aux Pommes et Saint Nectaire  - Hot apple pie served with Saint-Nectaire.

Cœur de Ris de Veau Braisé Pomme Fondante au Saint Nectaire A center cut of braised veal sweetbreads  served with roast potatoes covered in Saint-Nectaire. (Your French-Engish travel dictionary may translate "fondante" as melted, but in French cuisine "fondante" also indicates roasted when mentioned with potatoes).
Pavé de Rumsteck au Saint Nectaire – A Rump steak prepared with Saint Nectaire. For ordering a steak cooked the way you prefer click here.

The small town and  the Church of Saint Nectaire.

The La Maison du Saint-Nectaire,  cheese is a neighbor.
The town of  Riom-ès-Montagnes, the home of the Auvergne’s Bleu d”Auvergne AOP cow’s milk strongly flavored blue cheese and the center for growing gentian plants in France is just 60 km (38 miles) from Saint Nectaire   The other AOP cheeses of the Auvergne are the Cantal AOP and Salers AOP,  both hard, yellow, cow’s milk cheeses and  the  Fourme d’Ambert  AOP, a blue veined, mild, cow’s milk cheese.  Apart from these five AOP rated cheeses, there are many other excellent cheeses in the Auvergne.  Among these other cheeses are some that are very tasty with unique methods of manufacture; however, alone that  is not enough for an AOP. These other cheeses either do not have a large enough production or enough years of inspection to apply for an AOP. While you are in the area I extol the pleasures that are found in many other local cheeses, AOP or no. The local Fromagerie may make recommendations and allow you to taste a sliver before buying.  For information on buying cheese in France and taking it home, with all the French you will need, click here.

Murol and Chambon-Sur-Lac are neighbors.

Just 5km away from Saint Nectaire are the towns that  are famous for the Murol or Murol du Grand Bérioux cheese.  The Murol or Murol du Grand Bérioux is a mild, creamy, 45% fat yellow cow’s milk cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk; the cheese is matured for a minimum of five weeks before being sold. This is a relatively new cheese created in the 1930’s by a local cheese maker, Jules Bérioux; his name is still on many of the labels.  The cheese is produced in the area around the villages of Murol and Chambon sur Lac next to the beautiful Lake Chambon. As a new cheese, Murol du Grand Bérioux is less than 100 years old and probably to young to apply for an AOC!

Local English language websites:

Lac Chambon by Marc Chagall.

Saint Nectaire,  Mural, and Chambon-sur-Lac are all close to the heart of the Regional Natural Volcano park of the Auvergne.  Close by is the highest dormant volcano in France: the Puy de Sancy 1,886 meters ( 1,17 miles) in height.  This is a huge park comprised of outstanding landscapes, fauna, and flora and some 80 extinct Volcanoes.
The park’s English language website is:


Inside the Volcano Park.
Dining in the Auvergne  will show a broad range of enjoyable and unique dishes for all tastes. Among the special dishes of the Auvergne is the Coq au Vin de Chanturgue – The original Coq au Vin. Most chefs accept that the original coq au vin was prepared with the Chanturgue AOC/AOP red wine of the Auvergne.  For more about ordering a traditional Coq au Vin see the post: Coq au Vin, the Traditional Version is Much More Than Just a Chicken Stewed in Wine.

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

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