This is another mighty cheese from the Auvergne, which got a mention in the last cheese article on St Nectaire. This cheese is from a commune in the south west of the Auvergne.
Technically it’s from a commune called Thérondels. Even more technically, it’s from a intercommunalité called Carladez. An intercommunalité is a system of government or organisation where multiple communes work together.
This cheese is made by the Jeune Montagne cooperative. This is an uncooked, pressed cheese made with unpasteurised milk.
Milk is generally heated as part of the cheesemaking process. An uncooked cheese is just heated less. A cooked cheese has its curds [the lumpy bits after coagulation] heated in order to reduce the whey [the watery bit]. A pressed cheese is one that has been pressed to squeeze out the whey.
Do not panic about unpasteurised cheese. Unpasteurised cheese is a wonderful thing and it’s probably fair to estimate the number of deaths that can be blamed purely on cheese as small to negligible. If you’re nervous, just avoid giving unpasteurised cheese to the infirm or the pregnant. Pasteurisation is a process in which the cheese is heated to kill off certain bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria. It also kills lots of useful enzymes that go on to improve the finished cheese. Here in France we get to eat lots of cheese denied to people in the US and Australia. I have yet to see a story in the papers about cheese killing people. Insane drivers, yes but cheese no. Just eat it. It will make you stronger. Honest.
Anyway, before this descends into a rant, Thérondels comes in 2kg cylinders which, on the outside are a pale cork colour, but on the inside are a rich, soft, butter colour. It has a strong, sharp smell but has a smooth taste with a satisfying afterburn like a mature cheddar but without the harshness.
The outside is the fascinating bit for me though. It’s texture is rough with an almost dusty, powdery appearance, somewhat like a Mimolette [a cheese for another day] which, from a distance looks almost like sandstone.
And this is where the mites come in.
It’s also why I made the Mimolette comparison. For centuries the mites have been a key part in the cheese maturing process. The mites are spread over the young cheese and thrive in the humidity of the cheese cellar. They feast on the cheese rind, making little holes for the air and moisture and enable the cheese to breate and mature and develop its flavour and aroma. By the time the cheese is sold, there are no longer any mites, so don’t worry. See, you should love cheese mites. I do.