Our #MongersChoice this month is Salers as chosen by cheesemonger Caitlin.
“I have encountered just a few cheeses that make me feel like I am touching history,” and Salers cheese is one of those, said Cheese Expert Liz Thorpe (254). Salers is an incredibly rare cheese with a history that dates back more than two thousand years.
Salers cheese production begins in the early spring when the cheesemaker leads his herd of Salers cows into the mountain pastures, where they will spend the next 5-6 months. The high altitude, clean air and fresh grass allow the cows to produce rich and flavorful milk.
The cows are milked twice daily by hand. The Salers cows are so finicky that they will not let down their milk unless their calf is tethered to them. So, all the milking takes place in the pasture, and is done with a portable milking device. “Milk is collected in a wooden container called a gerle, which itself plays an important role in the production process, transferring microflora to the raw milk” (culture: the word on cheese).
Once the milk has coagulated, the cheesemaker cuts the curd. He uses a tool called the fréniale, which “removes the whey, and forms and presses the curd into a flat block called a tome.” The tome is then passed through a curd mill that breaks it into small pieces. Salt is added, and the mixture is left for a few hours to rest. Finally, the tome is packed by had into the traditional cylindrical Salers’ mold, and pressed again (culture: the word on cheese). Cheeses are then matured for three months to two years, depending on the maturation process. The maturation process includes regular turning and brushing with cloth to encourage the development of a natural rind.
“Making Salers cheese requires staggering amounts of unrelenting physical work, patience, and dedication.” Thorpe elaborates, “there are fewer and fewer people who want to do this work, although the resulting cheese sings of the stark, unspoiled green hills.” Sadly, “It’s a cheese that’s not likely to exist in another fifty years, so get it while you can” (Thorpe, 254).
Thorpe, Liz. “The Book of Cheese: The Essential Guide to Discovering Cheeses You’ll Love.”
“Salers Tradition.” Culture: the Word on Cheese, culturecheesemag.com/cheese-library/Salers-Tradition.