Jura Journal Part 1

Pre-Trip Reflection

 

I am looking forward to spending 5 days in the Jura mountains. I’m not quite sure what to expect, but I hope that I understand the beauty of cheese making. I am concerned about the fact that I have a sensitive stomach as well as a sensitive nose. I have a tendency to smell food before consuming it, out of natural reflex. It might be offensive to some as I have always been informed of having this natural instinct of feeling out my food. I do expect to understand the process of farm cultivation and the manner in which animals are treated. After reading about terroir in France, it  would be interesting to know how terroir fits in a place such as comte. Taste is very subjective. Out of the billions of people who occupy this planet, it comes by no surprise that every one has their own preference of taste. However, taste involves language. Without language one would not be able to describe taste. So is it fair to say that there is something called “good taste”?  Maybe I will find this out after my trip to Jura.

 

I hope that the Jura trip will be filled with plenty of surprises, but I also hope that I will be able to identify elements of food presented by nutrition and gastronomic discourse scholars that I have learned thus far in this class. Comte cheese sounds very daunting as I don’t understand exactly what it represents. In an attempt to figure this mystery out on my own, I’ve located a few Comte cheese’s in in Franprix, Carrefour, Monoprix, and local cheese stores. When I found Comte the different Comte cheese, I noticed there are many Comte cheese that look exactly the same for the most part, with the only difference being that they are  sold under different brands. It’s not like Kraft cheese that is sold in the USA. Kraft cheese sells so many different types of  cheese that most people refer to all cheese as Kraft cheese. Many will argue that Kraft is not a real cheese, but as for me, this is the only cheese that I have grown up with, so it’s real to me. I’m curious to know what makes cheese authentic. Cheese seems to be an important food to French identity, therefore I’m curious to know how the practice of cheese making starts and if the practices are different than practices from around the world. I would also like to know how the nutrition of cheese is regarded in France; if it’s fattening, full of calcium and minerals, or if it is considered apart of a normal daily diet.

We have learned from many scholars that food is a social link for many people and within that social link or social community there are shared meanings. I’m equally interested in learning and understanding how food such as cheese has shared meanings in a community. I understand that French gastronomy had strong social ties before and after the 19th century from royal courts, to Michelin chefs, to modern day restaurants. Does social ties to food and how it is consume exist for cheese? Is cheese tied to events such as birthdays, weddings funerals? Is cheese meant to be eaten alone or with other foods? How does one know what constitute cheese to be “good’?

 

 

In learning about terroir in the last few weeks of class, I expect that terroir has something to do with food grown in a specific region and the food is grown in only that specific region. I understand terroir as food belonging to land or a specific territory, therefore I expect that nutrients, soil, plants, seeds are a unique and specific identity found in a specific region. As for Comte cheese, I expect to see the relationship of the farmer to the cows or goats (or milk source) and to the land. I’m sure these animals must have specific diets to make their milk special. Otherwise, I expect that the land that the cows or goats graze on have specific nutrients for a diet. Since we are visiting the countryside, this  would also be interesting to know how much industrialization has influenced or not influenced the practice of cheese making. France has so many rules set by the department of health that there has to be some kind of regulation in regards to cheese making. The scholarly articles that have been written about Comte thus far, has shown us that Comte has some type of system set up that has a committee made up of individuals that regulate the internal structure of this cheese. This brings me back to one of my original questions, is Comte a company or a brand of cheese? Cheese productions seems like a tedious and complicated process from what I can understand simply from an academic perspective. I’m hoping that time spent in the Jura mountains will clear up the many questions and missing connects I have flowing through my mind. I don’t know how this experience will shape how I connect to food, but I hope that whatever I learn will have a lasting impact on my relationship to food.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Introduction to taste with Clair Perrot: Morning Session

 

Claire Perrot, a taste educator in southern, France, introduced my Food and communications class to taste and tasting. After breakfast, we all gathered in a 50m2 room of the GITE, an auberge in Mouchard France. Pens and pencils out, we were ready to transcribe everything, Claire the expert, had to tell us.  The first thing she told us was that senses around test tasting is multi-sensory, meaning it is essential for humans to make use of all senses for taste. She pose a question to each and every student sitting around the tiny room asking us to think about “What is the act of eating for me?” Each student contributed to this questing answering: socializing, hunger, happiness, craving, and preparation.  Claire and Professor Shields, my Food and Communications professor who organized this trip, began to write categories on a large presentation tablet organizing as such: flavor, texture, survive, nutrition, routine, preparation, fuel, cooking, ingredients, reward, choice, privileged, social.

 

According to Claire, the World Health Organization classified the act of eating  in the following diagram:

In understanding the importance of sensory in tasting, the sense of hearing was the first exercise conducted in the process of exploring the senses. We listened to sound recordings of someone biting into and apple, pouring milk, cracking of a nut, cutting of zucchini, pouring of milk on cereal, boiling water, and  the opening of fizzing sparkling water. Each sound was a different interpretation to each listener. It was important to find the worlds to describe what we were hearing in order to associate our interpretations. Vocabulary is important in taste because it allows us to speak about sensation. Next, we focused on sight as a sensory for tasting. Sight was identified as the first sensorial barrier that could give us false information due to the fact that it is not easy deciding what to eat simply by looking. Color, texture, liquid, form and volume are all characteristics of sight when we look at food. “Dans le Noir,” an interesting restaurant with legally blind waiters, serves customers in a dark room with no light. The concept is for the customers to eat something they cannot see.

An example of this that Claire demonstrated to us involved our first tasting of 2 liquids. The first liquid sample was a yellow light dull color, and the second liquid sample was a pink rose color. As a taste educator, Claire instructed us to first smell, then taste. For the first sample, yellow colored, I described the smell  as sweet, like  a fresh apple. When tasting, the liquid tasted like apple juice. I described this liquid as sweet, soft, light, with a slight tart aftertaste. The second liquid sample, pink rose color, had no smell, in fact it smelled exactly like the first liquid. I assume it was due to the fact that the same cup was used. In tasting, it tasting exactly like the first liquid. Claire informed us that though the liquids were two different colors, they were the same juice. The color of the pink liquid was created from one drop of  red coloring added to the original yellow light dull colored liquid.

The second tasting of the day involved chocolate. The chocolate squares looked like fudge, chocolate brownies. The color was dark brown, similar to the color of mud. Nuts and figs were inside the chocolate, and this chocolate smelled like pure cocoa. The chocolate had a bitter taste, hard texture when bitten into, not too sweet. As discovered was beets inside of what  in fact was a cake and not a brownie. The fig can be mistaken for other fruits because it is rare to make cakes with vegetables. In seeing and eating, we are making a connection with the brain for association.

Next, we were introduced to the sense of touch for tasting.  Claire ask us another question. “Do we touch everything we eat?” We all looked dumbfounded waiting for the answer, until one of my classmates answered, “Yes, we touch everything that we eat with  our tongues.” We were relieved to find out there was an answer to this question that seemed to be tricky. The organ/reception of touch is the skin. We have think layer of skin on our tongues that allow us to touch our food. Temperature, texture, and form are three characteristic involved in touch. The two ways of touching are press and caress. Texture is important to touch. Claire informed us that the first sense of touch is at 7 weeks for a  baby, and it occurs in the upper lip, between the nose and the lip. In developing our touch vocabulary, we used a selection of different bags to touch objects inside. We described all of the objects in our own words.

  1. Inside the first was an object that felt like a rock or a pumice that you would use for the feet. The texture felt rough, scrappy, and porous. It was a rock.
  2. Inside the second bag was an object that felt hairy and round. Pressing it felt fleshy, it was firm but not solid. Edges were rough and felt like a kiwi. It was a kiwi.
  3. Inside the second bag was an object that felt smooth, cool, waxy, and solid. It felt like it had been sliced and I felt a dry spot on the slice. There was a thick solid stem. When pressing it felt like a potato, maybe a beet. It was a round zucchini.
  4. Inside the second bag was an object that felt strange. It felt almost like a dead animal. It felt like the tail of a rat, solid, small and rubbery. It was a turnip.
  5. Inside the second bag was an object that felt loose. I wasn’t expecting it to be so losing after feeling the previous bags. It felt tiny, round, solid, grainy, like rice, smooth, loose freefall. It was wheat epautre.
  6. Inside the second bag was an object that felt smooth. There was a skin on the surface. The object was round shaped like a tear drop, solid and hairy like an onion. It was a shallot.
  7. Inside the second bag was an object that felt rubbery, bouncy, and smooth. I felt a seed inside and it was sticky a bit and slick. This was a mushroom.
  8. Inside the second bag was an object that felt like broccoli. This object had a bumpy top and a smooth solid stem. It was broccoli.
  9. Inside the second bag was an object that felt smooth and rubbery. It had the texture of a tulip leaf. It was solid when pressed and felt like an endive. This was an endive.
  10. Inside the second bag was an object that felt rough, tiny, salty, grainy and miniscule.

 

After experimenting with our sense of touch for tasting food, Claire gave us three reasons why we do not like food. These reasons are due to culture, individual physiological difference, and habits. She expands on this through the sense of smell. In experimenting with the sense of smell, we used our nose to smell thin sheets scented paper attempting to group the smells into families and sub categories.

 

  1. The first scent smelled was similar to Lemongrass, essential oil. The family that this belong to was fruity with a sub-category of citrus.
  2. The second scent smelled was similar to lavender, flowery, bouquet and nature. Family of floral.
  3. The third scent smelled was similar licorice, seedy, and nature. Family of earthy.
  4. The fourth scent smelled was similar to old peppermint or something old in general. No family could be identified.
  5. The fifth scent smelled was similar to honey, earthy, bees, insect and pollen. Family of floral.
  6. The sixth scent smelled was similar to allergies, and maple sap. This was a distinct smell for me due to my allergens. Family of earthy/flowery.
  7. The seventh scent smelled was similar to spicy, licorice, pungent. Family of earthy.

 

The third taste of the morning involved us pinching our noses to sample a food. This sample was described as tasteless, crunchy, juicy and neutral. There was no aroma’s. Aromas occur inside of the mouth. We are able to smell through a process called the recto-ulfactive path that connects the nose to the mouth. The mouth traps molecules and is taken trough this path and out through the nose; what we call smell. In keeping with vocabulary we abstained from using the generic world smell. Instead we referred to the two processes as odeur, when the molecules enter the nose from outside, and arome, when the smell is sensed from within the mouth.

 

Finally we arrived to sense of taste to describe taste. In a way this seemed a bit contradictory, to describe taste as taste. In identifying vocabulary as previously discussed earlier in the training, we defined saveurs as what you recognize onli yon the tongue. This includes vocabulary such as salt, sour, bitter, sweet, fat, acidic, or umamai (what we taste in water). Texture sensation exists because of tactical temperature, texture and form, tactical sensation is the first thing that  you will describe, when tasting, through the skin of the tongue and the whole mouth. Armoe, or what we smell in the nose is described as trigeminal sensation. This vocabulary included piquant (onion), brulant (chili), refreshing (mint), astringency (red wine). Astrigency can be described as a sensation you get on the tongue after rubbing a dry almond on the tongue, you will normally get cotton mouth. Through chemical sensations, the sense of smell in the brain is the same place as the treatment of emotions in the brain.

 

In describing taste we sampled 6 liquids using the vocabulary under the category of arome and saveur to describe taste. Clair made the mixtures but did not tell us what was mixed within each liquid.

 

  1. The first liquid was clear, it smelled like dirty dish water. It tasted salty, astringent and round.
  2. The second liquid was clear. It smelled like the same dirty water, it had a bitter taste, acidic and sour. In Japan, there is a balance of saveurs. In Italy, they love bitter. We have to learn to like bitter, it is not natural for us to like.
  3. The third liquid was clear. It also smelled like dirt dish water. I couldn’t taste anything; however, it was supposed to taste bitter.

 

Quinine, lucine is a different molecule responsible for bitter sensation. Taste is in the relationship between the taster and what is being tasted, according to Claire. There are many things involved with the relationship of taste.

 

  1. For the fourth liquid, Quinine was added to the liquid mixture for this sampling, this added bitterness to the liquid.
  2. For the fifth liquid sampling, this also had a bitter taste, like Umami (in other words, Claire said that were tasting the chemical MSG)
  3. The sixth sampling of liquid was sugar water, however, I did not taste the sugar.

 

We continued experimenting with taste through the use of lemons picked from the garden of Claire daughter.  The first tasting of lemons we proceeded to observe with sight, describing the lemon as wet, shiny, translucent, white towards the inner part, yellow towards the outer part. The smell had was described as a psychological association, meaning it reminds me of pledge. The taste of the juicy and fleshy part was acidic/piquante, with short strong taste. In this example, taste is made up of what Claire calls aroma (arome) and savor (saveur). Next we added salt to a second slice of lemon. This salt, that came from the Sahara, or region of Timbuktu, had a specific mineral on the salt. The smell of the lemon did not change, however, with the addition of the salt the taste is different, as I could tell that the salt reduced the acidity and bitternesss of the lemon. Next we sampled dried strawberries with salt. These dried strawberries were prepared by Claire, and the salt came from England. The odor the dried strawberry resembled very much the smell of pouporri-scented chipwood. It looked dry, dark and color of deep faded red. There was a sweet and salty saveur that was picked up on the tongue.

 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Botanical hike with Denis (Afternoon)

 

Denis was our tour guide for our nature hike. He came from the region of Auvergne just south of Jura. He was very enthusiastic about showing us plants on the nature hike. Aside from the beautiful green pastures engulfed by a perfectly clear creek and peaceful waterfalls, Denis introduced us to our first plant. The stinging nettle. At first glance, the plant seems like any old green weed coming out of the ground. According to Denis, the stinging nettle has more protein than soy, and more vitamin C than oranges. He informed us that we will be using this stinging nettle to make soup for dinner. He encouraged us to pick the stinging nettle, but also warned us to be careful, but they burn if we pick from the wrong spot. With in seconds of picking, the majority of the students were screaming in shock or pain fro being zapped by the plant. Denis have us another green plant grown near the stinging nettle as an anti-flammatory substance to rub on our burning fingers. Apparently, this plant is grown not far from the stinging nettle.  Next, we long green grassy plant which was wild garlic. When biting into the stem, I could taste the wild outdoors garlic substance. We also tasted asperule picked along the trail. This was bitter and had the arome of green iceberg saldad or mache leafs. We also tasted la fleur la prim called coucou, which is the first flower of winter.  It had an odor of honey though I did not taste it.

 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

 Introduction to taste with Clair Perrot (evening session)

 

For the evening tasting with Clarre, she gave us a sample of four different pieces of chips. She informed us that we are to taste the chips using the language and procedures of senses learned fro the morning session.

 

  1. The first chip was orange and bent with brown edges. It looked dry and dehydrated. The smell was oily, greasy, and cardboard like. The taste was sweet and salty.
  2. The second chip was orange, but different from the first. It looked uneven, bumpy with air bubble. It smelt musky, earthy and like paint. It had a salty earthy and fruity taste.
  3. The third chip looked dark, glistening, damp, rigid, and had tie-die features. The smell was like a woman’s perfume and musky. The texture was chewy and not hard, the sound was crunchy, it had a very similar taste to corn.
  4. The fourth and last chip looked translucent, bubbly and expanded. It smelt like a farm grown potato. It was salt at the beginning and end, keeping the taste of a salty potato.

Next, we had a chocolate tasting with Claire, directly after tasting the salty chips. These chocolate were purchased from local chocolate shop in the downtown square of Bouverans. The first chocolate was filled with praline and gnache. It had a tactile sensation of smooth, gritty, salty nutty and roasted. The second chocolate was chewy on the inside and outside, sweet and sour. There was a fruity aroma with an increase of intensity at the end with a citrusy and astringent taste. The third chocolate was smooth, chewy and had an aroma of cracked black pepper, spicy at the beginning, with a hint of cinnamon. The last chocolate had a bubblegum aroma. It was smooth sweet and cold. Hard on the outside. Silk on inside with a fruity and berry flavor.

 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Evening dinner snail tasting

 

When arriving to dinner we had there was a small open faced counter top oven baking the snails. Walking into the room one could smell the armoa of pesto, butter and garlic. The students were anxious. Some have eaten snails before some have not. When the snails were severed, students stared at the snails as shells as if they were a foreign object lying on their plates. A green like pesto sauce poured out of the top of the shell holes. One held the end of the shell by a metal clamp in one hand while picking the body of the snail out with a toothpick using the other hand. The snail had the same texture as calamari when chewed.  It was chewy but easy to swallow as compared to octopus. The meat of the snail was small, round, brown, warm and delicate. The student sitting to the right of me picked the snail out of its shell and stared at the object hanging from the toothpick. The next course of meal we had was the soup made of stinging nettle that we picked earlier with Denis. It smelled like vegetable soup. It looked like green pureed spinach.  The lasagna was made of butternut squash, goat cheese, spinach, pesto and broccoli. Many flavors were in this lasagna that it was hard to distinguish taste.

 

Later after dinner we were given a presentation by a local snail farmer in Jura. Snails do not like the sun, so a box must be constructed to guard them. The boxes have to be reconstructed every year due to wear and tare. The box’s must have enough space and be constructed in a manner which permits the snails to move around. When snails are baby’s they are transparent. “Gros-gris” or “big grey” are constructed on the snail farms. One matured to the age of 6 months, snails are considered adults. Snails lay eggs and they are hermaphrodites, meaning that have both genes of male and female. The snails mate in groups of three; however, one of the snails shots an arrow to the head of another snail and mates with the chosen snail not struck. Snails mate in February and are cultivated in one place. They are then taken to fields moist conditions where baby snails grow until they reach 6 months. Snails are fed calcium for their shells; however, they are not protected from predators such as birds and rats. By September, snails are matured, collected and hung on a net to dry and fast (or sustain from eating).  The reason why they have to fast for a few days is so that toxins will be out of their system before preparation and consumption by humans.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Visit with Comte cheese maker in Bouveran

 

Today we visited a dairy farm operated and maintained by Tas and his team. Tas is a local dairy farmer in the Jura region. He took over his family’s dairy farm and manages the day to day operation of cows and cheese production at the fromagerie, or cheese making facility on his farm. Tas’s mother heard that a group of students were coming from the American University of Paris to visit the farm, therefore before our visit, she invited us to her home and provided us a small breakfast of coffee, fresh milk and brioche. During this time, Tas gave us a brief history of the farm and cheese production in the area. He informed is that by 2015 30% of the dairy is produced by farms. “Comte is organized as a chain. There has been a long standing tradition and modernity from generation of cooperatives. The organization of French cooperatives own the capital , instead of the bank owning the capital. The farmer has a relationship with the producer of comte which is the cheese maker. The transportation of the milk to the cheesemaker is important for the production of cheese. Comte is sold at a minimum of 4 months and can be consumed at a minimum of 6monts.  Once Comte cheese is sold, the payment of comte cheese goes through a union of dairy farms.

In 1990, a campaign of production for Comte planned the number of cheese wheels that can be produced. There was a 1.5% increase in demand and 1.5 increase in sells, therefor milk was forced to be sold at national European price for competition in the market. One of the most interesting facts that stold us what that 90% of milk is water. He starts early each morning at 04h30. The cows that he has graze for 6 months eating the grass of the fields. Their body is regulated at a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius. When they are milked, microorganisms or floral are added to the milk. The milk rests with yeast and whey overnight and is added to new morning milk that goes into the mixing containers. The milk mixture, curded with coagulation, and the curd is cut with fine wires in a repetitive cycle in order to remove the moisture. The whey is what causes the curd to change to a yellowish color; there is keratin in the grass that the cows consume that causes the color to change during the production process.

The curd turns harder as the wires continue to turn for 6-7 minutes. The mixing containers are kept between 32 degrees Celsius and 56 degrees Celsius and for Comte; the use of copper to regulate the heat of the cheese is obligatory. The mixture is the transferred to plastic circles for setting. They are placed on wooden shelves made from local spruce trees for drying. This allows breathing between comte cheese wheels and the wood in order to reduce the amount of moisture. In addition, brushing the layers with a mixture of salt water makes the outer skin of the cheese. After drying and aging, the cheese has to weigh a minimum of 32 kg in order to be called “Comte” cheese, 5% of the weigh is lost during dehydration.  The cheese is kept in a cellar for 2 weeks before taken to the affineur or cheesemaker. The cheese wheels are turned over every three days in order to change on both sides.   2200 l of milk for 6 comte and 367 L per yields a lot of milk from the cows. The whey that is left over on the top layer of the curd mixture during the production cycle is used to feed local pigs to make them fat for sausage, met at the pig farm.

The process of cutting the curd takes 2-6 hours. The curd is separated once vacuumed. There is a machine connected to a vacuum hose that set the curd into rounds. Fat and salt is added to make more flavors to the cheese. There is a green label that the cheese must have which gives a quota for the cheese, which is then secured on the rind. The CTC, the technical committee owned by the board made up of the farmer, cheesemaker, and ager. The CIGC regulates how much cheese can be produced, which is 40kg per 1 wheel of cheese. If the cheese doesn’t make weight, the cheese at this facility is processed to a company called the “laughing cow.”

 

 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Comte Cheese tasting 12 month cheese, Bouveran farm

 

Later in the afternoon our class sampled Comte cheese from Tas’s farm in Bouveran. The cheese had a nutty and toasted odor. It had a thick, course, and yellowish color. It tasted rubbery and sweet and had and aroma of cashew. The second tasting of comte cheese had a strong floral taste in which the intensity increased. There are 3 cooperatives for comte and one of the major ones in Credit Agricole, which is an assurance bank. For comte, sustainable agriculture is important therefore keeping a track record of procedures are important for proof. In asking Tas about his life at comte he answered in third person;

 

“Tas consider himself very fortunate very lucky, and everything is within walking distance. There is a natural way of protection for our animals in terms of stress, pollen and work. Farmers do not get paid well, which leads to many problems such as suicide. When farmers aren’t paid anything, they are stressed and worry about taking care of themselves and their families. When they have nothing to live for anymore, suicide occurs. The French record of suicide among farmers is 1 per day. Some farmers work for nothing and compete in the world market, which is controlled by the government. Procession and protocol, as a child Tas would stand outside of fromagerie and wait for the left over cheese from the fromagerie.”

 

Comte promotes itself in many ways. It does not feel the need for traditional marketing. For example, Tas told us Comte holds a communications event called “radonne de future.” This event was performed through biking, walking and horseback riding by visiting 5 local cheese dairies and sampling their products, cheese and wine. 2200 people can register for the event due to the size of the town. People hear about the event by word of mouth or on social media. Comte has 2300 farms, 5000 farmers in each farm, 153 dairies (frutieres) 12 aging cellars. Important factors for cheese making is age, seasons, time for aged cheese, and the quality of milk. According to Tas “the idea of terroir is not only int the soil and plants, but microfloral that comes from the cows utters  to the milk and also the know how of the skilled labor, or the human agent.”

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dairy farm visit with Tas in Bouverans

 

The dairy farm was located on green pasteurs and no crowded farms. The cows were white with chocolate brown spots. The cows are not scattered. They eat green grass, hay and bucket of mineral, vitamin, copper and zinc mixture. Smells like outdoors, fresh dirt and hay. The cows looked relaxed and reposed. They are marked with numbers on the collar and tags on the ears. The odor in the air did not smell pungent or foul. All the cows were females except for one male cow. They walked slowly and gracefully, they are shy but don’t seem fearful. The cows are accustomed to being vacuum pumped. They are relaxed as they are pumped, as if it was a natural routine. Once finished, the next group of cows line up in an orderly fashion and are hooked up. One cow was too relaxed because all of a sudden, it sprayed by and 5 other girls with fecal matter all over our right side. It was green slimy and wet, with specks of hay. In a separate barn were baby cows, or veals. They were being weaned from the mother cows by being fed her milk through rubber nipples.  The baby cows are gentle. They licked our hands and allowed us to pet them like puppies. The cows are taken well care of. Their health is important and they are constantly checked for sicknesses and difformaties.

 

 

 

 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Monts et Terroir cheese aging cellar Eric Chevalier (marketing perspective)

 

At the enterpirse of Monts et Terroir de merveilleux fromage, Eric serves as the director of interprofessional and exterior relations for comte. Eric is the son of a dairy farmer. He did not want to take over the farm, but rather he possessed an in knowing how milk was transported. He went to the NEEL school (Institut NEEL) in Aix en Provence, and afterwards worked at  Clareti Transaction Control (CTC) helping cheese makers improve the quality of cheese between the cheese and the region. Monts et Terroir is a French term defined as mountains and territories, is the biggest producer of Comte per year at 19,000 tons. He also works with other cheeses in the Savoie Alps region.

Monts et Terroir is a private company where 65% of capital is held by Sodial, a supply company that produces for General Electrics and Yoplait, the remaining 35% of the capital is owned by dairy farms and other actors within Comté. The enterprise grew out of a collaboration of other smaller enterprises in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Their responsibilities included selling pre-packaged cheese in supermarkets. The Cahier des clauses administratives particulières (CCAP) started in 1954, where the cheese agers (affineurs) aged and commercialized the cheese. The CCAP is a document that basically allowed cheese to be sold in a private market. In continuing the tradition of Comte, in the early 1980’s, the family Abeille fused with local cheese agers (affineurs), in Jura mont and started the current site in Jura, by the end of the 1980’s the family bought what is now ENTRE-MONT. In 1992 a family called Gojon became owners of guyere cheese. In 2010 and 2011 the cooperative “sodial group” put value on the milk in the region.  They valorized the milk so that it can have a better commercial network to get a chance in a bigger market; the objective was to massif production and reduce cost so you can profit. Selling the product as it exists by Comte chain in a way that every worker in the chain can live well is important in maintaining employment for Comte workers.  The pay rate in the region of Comte is as follows: 500 euros/ 1000L of Comte in Comte, however it is 300 euros/ 1000L of Comte in other regions. Equally distributing jobs and maintaining jobs in the rural areas, while maintaining the quality of cheese is a strong value for Comte.

 

The evolution of the enterprise is an evolution in itself. 35000 tons to 65000 tons of cheese have been produced over 25 years. There are less farmers today than before due to robots taking over partial labor. There has been a lot of tension arsing in with farmers about milking machines; however, hey are used at Comte only for the purpose of turning over cheeses in the age cellars. The first objective of comte is to determine values. According to Eirc, The hands of men and women who make products are important. For example, farmers should be taking care of the animals on the farm, cheese makers have to learn the art of making cheese (putting the hands in cheese to check formation), for the raw milk, has are needed to make artisanal cheese. The CTC is a specialized branch created within Comte, they go into the fromageries, or cheese makers and refine their practices. Comte prides itself in maintaining diversity and richness. They do not care about making a standard cheese like other cheese company’s. They care about maintaining the diversity of farmers, cheesemakers and affineurs. The Comité Inerprofessionnel de Gestion du Comté (CIGC) is a regulating committee board within Comté. They are a collective image that is defined within the Comte chain and they bring the Comte to the market.

 

Eric informed us that marketing is about what people want to hear; however, Comte always try to communicate what they do, and avoids talking about what the customer wants to hear. He affirmed that this message that they are producing, is converging with what consumers want to hear since there exists a trend where consumers are concerned about what is in their food.

 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Monts et Terroir cheese aging cellar, Sylvain Esselin tour guide of cheese cells

 

After talking with Erica about the marketing side of Comte, Sylvain took us on a tour through the cheese cells. The smell was acidic and very much like ammonium. We walk rows of new cheese and older cheese. With the addition of the new facility 162,000 wheels of cheese can be kept on this site. This was built in 4 stages, starting in 1982, 1984, 2012, and finally 2015. Comte cheese is ages in three stages: 1)Pre-Affinage – the cheese must remain 21 days at a temperate between 10-15 degrees Celsius. 2) warm cellars (affinage) 3) Aging cellars (the first stage built in 1982) – if you want to age the cheese past 4 months. The cellear built in 1982 was built with turning robots. 2,052 cheese wheels can fit in later cellars at a minimum of 90% humidity between 10-15 degrees Celsius and a height of 10 cm with a maximum of 13cm. For Comte, the Mont-Belliare cow in the number one main cow; they make up 2% of the cows in the region.

As learned with Tas at his miniature cheese cell, there are green labels on the cheese rinds that make the cheese traceable back to it’s original creator. The label includes the country (France), year, month (english abbreviation), department, and day, and container number. Every fruitiere has a code when cheese goes to the affineur, the affineure will also have their own code once the cheese is received. The cheese is rubbed with salt for 21 days, after 21 days the affineur raises the temperature. The spruce board that the cheese rests on for aging, lasts for 25 years. The boards are washed, dried and replaced after every pre-affinage stage. Bacteria, yeast and mold forms on the rinds of the cheese. The ammonium smell continues to increase as the cheese continues to age. During the second stage (warming), the cheese begins developing the aroma and texture, developing what’s inside the cheese, making sure the cheese is being conserved by keeping humidity inside. Cheese change color in warm cellar and the rinds become darker the more they age.  An improvement was made by 2015 that allowed 30,000 wheels of cheese to fit in one cellar. At 25% humidity and a minimum of 120 days, Comte cheese can be commercialized. The robots rub the cheese with .6% of salt.  This quantity is fixed by the rules of the CGC. At the end of the tour I asked Eric, who rejoined us, does cheese continue to age after 6 months, he replied: “Once cheese is cut it no longer ages; however, for example, if a round of chees was shipped to the USA at 12 months and a company doesn’t cut it for another 12 months, it cannot be called 24 month cheese.”

 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Maison du Comte

 

The Maison du Comte was established in 2003, it is the director and guide as well as the first step to understanding the world of Comte. It s a tiny exhibit that that lays out a brief history of Comte, first by showing an animated video of cheese production from begging to end, followed by a display room. The communication director gave us a general brief history of Comte for summary. We learned that there are 5 world representatives in England, USA, Germany, Belgium, Japan with 8 persons for each export. Comte communicates on social media, press events and through bloggers/journalists. They produce traditional products that is in a modern category, so therefore modern equipment is needed; but the role of man is important to communicate to the public about raw milk and diversity. They also communicate their product by hosting events with top chefs in Lyon, Strasbourg, Nantes and Marseille.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Visit with wine-maker Jean Michelle, Papillion appellation arbois

 

This vineyard is located in the appellation arbois. It is also an historical landmark from World War II. The village was in the occupied zone by the germains and the vineyard was in the free zone. The Jura vineyard is very small and it takes makes up 5000 acres. It is located in the geographic region of AOC-4 in Jura. They are  appellation arbois, cote de ira, etoile and chateaux. Chardonnay and Savoie, Poussard, Trousseau and pinot noir are natives of this region. The vineyard has been organic since 2012 and they have used no chemicals for weeds since 2003. They are “bio-dynamic” meaning they are natural with the wine, by following the cycle of the moon for harvest and production. Jean Michelle tells us that organic is costly because it costs a lot of labor, therefore, bio-dynamic is a process where one uses calcium and sprays the leaves early in the morning, this requires less money but more energy. Jean Michelle also believes that The vines grow better on slopes and the soil should not be too rich, vines have to suffer a bit to grow well.

 

There are 3 types of soil in Jura: red marle soil (plussard, savongay wine, oyster field/ oyster park, and grey soil.  In the oyster park, this soil has sedimets of limestone and argille deposits which are mixed in the soil, this makes the soil easier to work with than red soil when plowing.  Jean Michelle describes “terroir” as the exposure of the ground. He tells us that the “red soil facing north is much better than the average ground facing south. The human is apart of the “terroir”, if you plow you don’t use too much chemicals. The slopes are many and we have to keep the ground in its original shape, if you use water all the time, erosion will come quickly.”

 

When wine is first created, it is planted with a vine about 1 feet long, and it takes about 3 years to yield fruit. Every year, the buds are cut to create the trunk. If the vines are maintained well, the vines will last 40-50 years according to Jean-Michelle. On his vineyard, he uses a natural form of fertilizer which he calls “nitrogen green fertilizer.” This comes from a plant called “feverole” whichis planted next to the vine, this plant is planted in the soil to provide nitrogen to the roots and vines. A plant on the soil during winter is planted in mid august, harvested in September, and grows in winter; it is destructed only when vines need nitrogen, and is plowed three times per year. Jean Michelle described to us that the roots will only develop on the top of the soil if chemicals are used, the roots need to go down into the ground to look for moisture, not nutrients.

 

Post-Trip Reflection

 

My time spent in the Jura Mountains was anything short of spectacular. Before this trip, my expectations were solely formed based upon the information that I had been presented through class readings. Being apart of a community that celebrated the creation of cheese from the early stages of production to marketing was something grand. For the most part, I understood that what you see isn’t always what you get.  I discovered that comté was a way of life and it took more than just cheese to make this happen. The idea and concept of terroir was elaborated and defined through each stage of interaction that I encountered with all the actors of Comte. First of all, I can say that this region was located in the countryside. The region was made up of several small villages that kept intact its unique and traditional cottage style houses. The atmosphere was clean, green and quiet. Something most of us would expect in the countryside. On the lines of expectations, each representative of comté had a shared identity.

 

Comte was not merely concerned with making the cheese “good” or keeping a secret recipe that created a unique and distinct taste in every bite of cheese. I found this to be very bothering considering the fact that I grew up eating Kraft cheese. I remember my childhood being filled with the moments during wintertime where my mother would prepare lightly toasted white bread, by which a warm yellow string of cheese would fall down from my mouth as I attempted to take my first bite. My bite of Comte cheese earlier in the semester didn’t quite par to this image. Of course, it was during early months of winter when my professor walked into class with cutlets of French fry shaped comté cheese. In the back of my mind, I knew that the only reason I hated cheese was because I have lactose intolerant.

Most people hate cheese for other reasons such as the smell, color, or perhaps bad experiences. My first sampling of cheese in Jura was different from my first sampling in the classroom. In the classroom, I hated cheese because of my intolerance to some of the lactose, as mentioned before, but when sampling the comté in Jura, Claire, the taste educator who guided most of our comté experience, really taught us how to use our senses to describe taste. Indeed, there is no such thing as “good taste” and there are many reasons why people tend to have different likings for food. Claire told us that taste normally begins in a mothers womb, therefore it is inherited and learned and built upon. We can appreciate food such as cheese much better when we learn how to taste. What’s good to one person can be oddly different to another person. When we learn what good or bad food is, it’s usually described through use of language and comparisons.

 

At comté, I learned how language was constructed through the daily activities with my class mates. Everything we tasted from the cheese to the color water to the snails had a different taste for each taster (or in this case my classmates). We learned to describe what we were tasting by comparing it to other things that we have tasted at a previous time in life. This was the most influential skill that we learned early on as we were able to think like a group and a community, though everyone had a different taste. In addition, the use of all of our senses became equally important in identifying food, not just cheese, but other vegetables, fruits and objects not common to us. For example, Claire had all the students feel an object in 10 different solid colored cloth pouches. This was a daunting experience for most students as some things felt really unpleasant to touch and created a fear, meaning we became disconnected from our food. When we are disconnected from our food we are no longer apart of a community.

 

My favorite part of this experience was meeting Taz, a farmer in Jura who really cared about his farm and animals. When our class arrived to the farm for the first time, this farm had a pleasant and nice feel. The grass was green, the cows were happy, and the cool breeze that passed by did not smell like the cow manure at 6am that I smell at home in Kentucky.  What stood out more to me with this experience I encountered at Taz’s dairy farm was his passion for what he did every morning before the crack of dawn until sunset. He never once mentioned it as a job or a business, but rather something that made him happy. He allowed us to touch the cows and milk them; my fondest moment of being close to the nature of cows is associated with the moment I was in awe of the cows lining up to be milked, and one cow splattered its solid waste on 4 of the girls in my class, including me. One with nature is what I thought to myself. It was disgusting, but none of us were upset because we knew it was normal and Taz experienced this everyday. These were the cow’s that provided the milk for the cheese that is made by the cheese-maker or otherwise known as the fromagerie. In this early production of cheese making, I found out at Comté 4th stomach of a baby cow is used to make the natural fermentation for the acidic element needed for cheese to be cured and formed once heated. This natural process was intriguing and caused me to have mixed feelings. I support natural food, but I also didn’t understand why a baby cow was killed for the process. I tried to overlook that fact but it became harder as I looked at all the baby cow’s in the dairy barn, I suppose it’s ethical since baby cows are eventually killed and eaten as veal.

 

I cannot cover every thing that I observed and learned in my five days in the Jura mountains, but I can say for the most part, my expectations were beyond surpassed. From now on, my relationship to food will always bring me back to my experience in Jura. I did not have a deeply moving life changing experience, but it gave me a better appreciation of different tastes, deepened by vocabulary for expressing test, and gave me experience

 

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