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.”