Cheese University (VI): Laguiole

Laguiole (cheese & knife)

Here’s yet another ancient ambassador of the very rustic Aubrac region south of France’s Massif central. Before cutting, it reminds of a small barrel 40 centimetres wide and 40 centimetres high, so it’s quite a big guy in the cheese world, every piece weighing around 45 kilograms. It was mentioned in documents of the 4th century already, in other words: 1600 or so years ago. So you won’t be surprised that the producers proudly print the name directly on the crust:


Only 700 or so tons of this cheese are produced every year. It got its first AOC branding in 1961 which was modified over the years but the main elements have always been the same: Milk production, cheese fabrication and the process of ageing are reserved only to the geographical region of Aubrac. It’s a cheese made of raw, full fat cow’s milk, the curd is not heated, just pressed in different legs for more than two days overall (in a mould that contains three Laguioles, an interesting technique). The cows have to be of the Simmental or Aubrac breed and producers are not allowed to milk more than 6000 litres per year and per beast (which only makes a third of what modern „industrial“ milk cows have to deliver nowadays before going down the fast food chain as “pure beef”, you know the deal…).

During maturation, for at least four, quite often 12 months in humid caves, the Laguiole develops a thick, porose crust of at least 3 millimetres, covering a buttery, slightly grainy body of cheese. I guess it’s one of those that you either love or hate because it is special in texture and taste. There’s acid tones to be sensed, it can be quite salty. The consistency wavers somehow between firm and soft, it’s hard to describe yet it’s always a very French original.

Laguiole (say: “layol”) goes well with fruity red wines, if you asked me, maybe a Costières de Nîmes or even a dark Cahors. Just eat it with bread and avoid the fashionable new world chi-chi of spreading cheese with figue mustard, berry marmalade or things alike. These grand, noble cheeses don’t need such sweet proletarian company only masking their real, profound character.

The video attached contains footage of the hard farmer’s life in Aubrac.

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