August 24, 2004
Saint Nectaire
Posted by Gordon Smith

This cheese comes from the Auvergne region in south-central France. With volcanic mountains, crater lakes, and the Tronais forest, the Auvergne region is one of the most beautiful in France. They make good cheese, too.

Saint Nectaire cheese is a pressed, cow's-milk cheese that is traditionally ripened in rye straw. It has a pink-orange rind with white mold. The cheese itself is yellow with small holes. My slice was nearly bursting from its cellophane, like a yeasty bread dough that was rising.

The official website of Saint Nectaire tells the fascinating history of the cheese, including the following:

[T]he 18th century saw an attempt to make Gruyère in the Mont Dore area, spurred by Lieutenant Trudaine who attracted Swiss cheese makers there. The Auvergne peasants' contempt for Gruyère caused the Swiss to leave. For their part, producers managed to improve the making of Saint-Nectaire.

During the wars from 1792 to 1815, young Auvergnat soldiers discovered Holland. On their return, they put into practice the cheese-making methods they had found there. A committee of Auvergnat cheese-makers then went to Holland to perfect the application of the Dutch methods to the making of Saint-Nectaire.

Interesting to see the French giving credit to the Dutch for their contribution to this ancient cheese. By the way, if you are interesting in reading about the origins of the name Saint Nectaire -- a story that involves Louis XIV -- look here.

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