Comte is in reality the French equivalent of Swiss Gruyere. In fact it is often called Gruyere de Comte or French Gruyere. This great French cheese is produced in the Franche-Comte region which encompasses the three departments of Jura, Doubs and Haute-Salone. This mountainous region borders the Swiss Alps and the cheeses that are produced there are considered to be Alpine cheeses. The dairy cows in these alpine pastures graze on grass and mountain flowers which produce the grassy, herbaceous flavors and aromas of this cheese. What really sets French and Swiss Gruyeres apart is that the Swiss version is aged for only three months while the French (Comte) is aged for a minimum of six months and but often up to twelve months. This longer aging process brings out a bolder and richer flavor.
All French Comte is AOC (Appellation D.’Origne) name controlled to assure that only milk from this region’s dairies is used to produce it. Comte is not produced on a large scale or in cheese factories, but continues to be made by local dairies that produce small batches of 80lb wheels daily. This low volume ensures attention to detail and consistent high quality cheeses.
Comte, as with many firm Alpine cheeses, is hard to abuse and will hold up well in the refrigerator. It is a non-pasteurized pressed, cooked curd cheese that has an inedible natural brushed rind. The interior paste will have small holes through out and the inner paste will have a yellowish to ivory color. Its flavor will have hints of hazelnuts and grassy herbs. Always look for the bell symbol and the name Comte stamped in green on the rind. However, a lot of the Comte coming into the US has a white and green paper label attached to the cheese with the name Comte AOC printed in green on it. When shopping for Comte do not purchase any that is moldy, looks dried out or has a cracked rind.
Comte is a versatile cheese that goes well with salads, sandwiches or served with fresh fruit. Comte also melts well so use it sliced over baked potatoes or rice dishes.
Wine parings: French reds like Burgundies and Beaujolais