Monday, April 11, 2016
Monts et Terroir cheese aging cellar, Sylvain Esselin tour guide of cheese cells
After talking with Eric about the marketing side of Comte, Sylvain Esselin 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 cheese 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.”