Midi-Pyrenees Gastronomy - Cheeses

This cheese is almost a part of France’s history: a monument to taste that forms part of the nation’s heritage. Roquefort represents a blend of delicacy and strength and a perfect match between nature’s genius and man’s intelligence. This prestigious cheese is prepared in the south of Aveyron, not far from Millau Viaduct, a Great Tourist Site in Midi-Pyrénées. (External link) It is the oldest French AOC. These days, three companies (Caves Papillon, Caves Société and Caves Gabriel Coulet) share the natural cheese cellars around the village of Roquefort. The cellars here were carved out in the 17th century from the cracks in the Combalou limestone cliff: here, the round blocks of cheese, made exclusively from milk produced by ewes of the Lacaune breed wait patiently for Mother Nature to sketch out their emerald-colored veins. The Roquefort cheese then emerges from the 10-storey underground ‘factory’ to markets all over the world. It should be consumed at room temperature, like a good wine.

Blue des Causses
Bleu des Causses, one of Roquefort’s neighbors, evokes images of stony ground, heathland and cellars deep beneath the sun-baked causses. With its astonishing mild flavor, aromatic ardor and smooth consistency, Bleu des Causses is matured in cheese cellars hewn into the heart of the rock, at Peyrelade close to the entrance to the Tarn Gorge. Though it uses a different raw material to Roquefort (Bleu des Causses is made from full-fat cow’s milk), it is adorned with the same thin blue lines of penicillium. This microscopic fungus is borne by draughts blowing upwards through fleurines, natural cracks in the scree-covered slopes.

This is a product of the transhumance of the herds of Aubrac cattle that munch their way through the luscious grass of summer pastures as they wander around the uplands. Laguiole is a firm but creamy cheese that is straw-yellow in color. It has a distinctive flavor, and a natural dried and brushed rind. It is made either in a traditional stone buron or in dairies, using the methods employed by the cantalès (master cheesemakers) of days gone by. According to a popular saying from the Laguiole area, “the cheese is content in the rind because the milk is content in the udder; the milk is content inside the udder when the cow is content, and the cow is content when it is comfortable in the meadow”.

Rocamadour is an irresistible little cheese which has been made from unpasteurized goat’s milk on the causses du Quercy since the 15th century. Its home is Rocamadour, a Great Tourist Site in Midi-Pyrénées, (External link) in the heart of the Causses du Quercy Regional Nature Park. (External link) Before we give into the temptation to tuck in, let's take a closer look at this phenomenon of the cheese world: six centimeters in diameter and one and a half thick, with four grooves across the top and a soft, velvety, ivory-colored rind. In the mouth, Rocamadour melts on the palate, releasing aromas of goat’s milk, perfumed by contact with the junipers, flowers and grasses of the causses.

Pyrenean Tomme
This is a mountain cheese produced at high-altitude that has been made in the heart of the Central Pyrenees since the 12th century. The departments of Hautes Pyrénées and Ariège are home to a number of cheese-making cellars where the morning’s milk is processed and turned into this pasteurized cow’s milk cheese according to strict rules handed down over the centuries. Its rind can be black or golden, while the inside is supple and open, and can range from ivory to pale yellow in color. The taste can be delicately acidic or fuller. Each valley, each village and each farmer has its own special recipe and its own maturing time. However, the same pastoral vein runs through all of these terroirs, which are linked together by the same mountains.