Last week my Wüsthoff German knife cut my finger. It is not a small cut either, quarter of my nail and a big chunk of meat is gone. After washing, Betadine and careful wrapping, I immediately thought, I am not going to be able to make cheese the next day. So milk went into the freezer. If I get milk again next Saturday, it will be about 40 Liters of milk. Good amount for a large wheel of hard cheese particularly Comte. Comte is a cheese that I have tried before probably four or five times but aging this cheese is always a problem.The story of me deciding to make this cheese is, a while ago, me and my lovely wife were trying some shop bought cheeses and one them were Comte. It was an original Comte imported from France. My wife said, “why don’t you make cheeses like this one” and I go like, does this mean I can buy a montbeliarde as a house cow?
Jokes aside, if you are making cheese at home, and worried that the costs and effort are outweighing the shop prices, try making the expensive cheeses. And do not forget that, if you are using raw or organic milk, your cheese will be a lot more nutritious than the supermarket cheeses.
When I dig the internet for a recipe and our glorious cheeseforum.org, there wasn’t one. So I decided to use the wisdom of the crowd particularly Pav AKA Linuxboy. The entire discussion is here. I must admit, it is easy to make this cheese but the affinage is a big problem. If you don’t have a proper cheese cave where the humidity and temperature controlled precisely, your cheese may turn into granite and requires a jack hammer to crack or a stinky gooey mass where only an old French guy can eat.
Also make sure you have all the starters and aging cultures for morge.
What Wikipedia says about Comte cheese is:
“The cheese is made in flat circular discs, each between 40 centimeters (16 in) and 70 centimeters (28 in) in diameter, and around 10 centimeters (4 in) in height. Each disc weighs up to 50 kilograms (110 lb) with an FDM around 45%. The rind is usually a dusty-brown color, and the internal pâte is a pale creamy yellow. The texture is relatively hard and flexible, and the taste is strong and slightly sweet.”
Of course, whatever milk and culture you use, your cheese will not be a Comte without the terroir qualities of the Jura mountains and its characteristic grazing areas providing a diverse salad bar to the Montbeliarde cows. The milk and its features, the bacterias, morge cultures and other local ingredients that make their way into the milk and make are the true terroir features that makes this cheese a unique experience. Buy some Comte cheese and educate your palate first so that you can tell if your cheese is close or not.
I have started with 40L of milk in two 20L boilers. It will be hard to measure and control the acidity with these 2 separate boilers but this is what I have. Later in the milk ripening stage, I mixed the milks with my measuring cup. Also close checking of the pH gives me the accuracy I need.
Heat milk to 32°C to 33°C.
Streptococcus Salivarius Thermophilus (20 DCU – per 100 litres) (TA60)
Lactobacillus Helveticus (5 DCU – per 100 litres) (LH100 from Danisco but one more different bacteria comes in with it which actually might help as it is Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. lactis)
Propionibacterium freudenreichii subsp. shermanii (0,05 – 0,1 unit – per 100 litres)
And LD Type starter, that is Flora Danica
Inoculate your milk with the above concoction and wait about an hour.
Add rennet, mix well. Place the floc bowl.
Target flocculation is 12 to 15 minutes minutes. Multiply this 2 or 3 to find the cutting time.
Cut to 4mm pieces (or rice size), rest and heal 10 min.
Stir and find the big pieces of curd, cut them.
First phase: Stir gently to help firm up the curd and start syneresis. This is before scalding. Do this for 10-15 min.
Second phase: Start scalding to 51°C, or a tad higher, to 53-55°C over 30 min.
Third phase: This is post scalding, where you are targeting the right curd moisture at the right acidity. Meaning, this is the artisan skill. If you have over dry curds, but your acidity is not there, you barely stir, and let it settle. If the curd is moist, too moist, you stir and try to get that moisture down. If the acidity is running away, you try and wrap it up and press as soon as you can. But the point is that you turn off the heat and get the curds down to the right point over the next 15-45 min. Wide range is because of variability.
Let the curd settle at the bottom. Press under whey to make PS work better. Draining acidity is about pH 6.45.
Transfer the curds in to press and press with 10-15 psi till the pH becomes 5.4. Flipping and gradually increasing the weight is necessary here.
Remove from the press once you reach to pH 5.4 and into saturated brine. Your brine should be at 14°C and pH4.7 to 5 and with a time calculation of 12 hours per 1000Gram of cheese. Prepare the brine from whey and add some CaCl2 and rock salt. This creates a good crust so you can start with the morge and have it penetrate slowly over time.
First phase: at 10-13°C, for 20-30 days. Usually 3 weeks, or a few days over. This is to get the curd to have that initial fuse and prep it for warm room.
Second phase: at around 18°C, for 40-55 days. This is when you move to the warm room for propionic action, and where you can also start the morge. By this time, there should be a decent rind on the cheese, and you can start the wash with B. Linen and Microccocci.
Third phase: back to 10-13°C, keep washing with morge.
Overall, you want humidity to be pretty high when you first start with the morge. And after, there’s no single right answer. During extended aging, you are really trying to balance the rate of moisture loss, so the wheels do not dry out. 85% will work. Somewhere around 90% is better. But in a small cave like you will use, do the best you can. The dynamics are different anyway, so 85% vs 90% doesn’t make a dramatic difference. Keep it dry enough so it doesn’t turn into a Limburger or have a wet rind.
Affinage is about a year. After the first 6 months you can vacuum pack the cheese to prevent over drying.
I like youre cheese comte and would love very mutch to try making this my self.. I did nor have milk from the cows you write about, but I have danish Jersey milk with fat % 6.15 – Hope that I can make a whele out of this after youre recipe… I want to put a link on my danisk cheece blog ostepressen.blogspot.com…
You have a very nice blog…
Would you give me a permission to translate your Comte recipe into Russian and repost it at my blog along with your pics for russinan speaking cheesemakers?
No worries Pavel. Go for it.
I have only just started experimenting with cheese making. And finding recipes and advise etc. I found your blog quite informative. I have ordered some equipment to start with and some cultures, I will let you know if I have any success.
I have been doing a lot of searching for a comté recipes and was interested to find your take on this cheese. I have a french work colleague who regards this as his favourite cheese so I would like to make it for him to show that it can be done at home! I just thought I’d run some thoughts by you and some other things I picked up in the more scientific type cheese books I came across.
One source I read (The science of cheese-book) claimed that comté only uses Lactobacillus Helveticus as the starter culture. I find this to be a bit odd as other sources say to use Lactobacillus Helveticus & Streptococcus Salivarius Thermophilus. Traditional comté uses the previous day’s whey which contains these cultures. I find your added in Flora Danica to be interesting – trying to replicate the flora of the Jura mountains/raw milk? Do you have any trouble with the PH dropping a little quickly in the early stages? I’ll certainly try this idea.
Also several of the scientific sources say that comté should be scalded at 55 C – must be the highest scald cheese at that heat.
I’m curious as to why you added Propionibacterium, as the comté I buy has no holes and according to my french workmate it shouldn’t even have small holes. I have seen Emmental (Swiss) cheese labeled as comté and that has holes. As I understand it, comté is part of the Gruyere family where the recipe is similar to Emmental without the holes and is pressed much harder for a smooth finish. Gruyere and comté don’t get the ‘warm’ room treatment as they have no hole making bacteria in them. Obviously, cheese has many takes on what and what not to do – hence a wonderful world of variation.
I will use your recipe as the base for my comté and leave out the Propionibacterium and warm room treatment and will press the cheese harder. Another thing to note is that the Gruyere family of cheeses can have more brine time, unlike Emmental where too much salt will kill the Propionibacterium – they have about 1% – 1.5%.
Thanks, look forward to any thoughts you have.
>comté only uses Lactobacillus Helveticus as the starter culture
I don’t think they have any commercial starter culture sachets up in Jura mountains. The concoction I came up with above is the closest (I believe) with the commercially available starter cultures (and some extras) to terroir qualities of Jura.
I have always used P.Shermanii and brined longer. The remaining PS will help the aroma profile without causing the holes. Yes the salt will kill it but not all.
>scientific sources say that comté should be scalded at 55 C
Commercialscientific sheesemaking books are talking about a more controlled environment with acidity, temperature, starter culture amount etc. And the production is designed towards the quicker turn around. Scalding at the highest temp at home requires the same sort of control over the making. Just use a pH meter and keep an eye on the look and feel of the curd. After couple of make, you will find the sweet spot.
Thanks for your comment.
Thanks for your quick response. I have made a number of emmentals and have had some good success. The P.Shermanii does give a nice flavour. And those cheeses are heated to 49C. I have yet to make a comte and the beaufort cheese I made was just okay. It is interesting to use cultures that you know will die at an early stage but still play a role in the flavour. I know this is true of messo cultures added to high heat cheese. I look at the P.Shermanii with long brining.
My family all come from the Franche Comte region – While visiting there recently, they served Comte cheese after every dinner and even some during lunch and some during breakfast. Many there can even tell which cave it came from based on the flavor. And the older the better. Where most wont even touch the Comte till its over 18 months old.. Sure i could buy Comte in the markets, but after making some cheese every so often, I have dreamed of trying to make my own. Thank you for your talents and posting the directions. I cant wait to try it..
– Idaho USA
We found your comte recipe a few years ago when we were exploring the style. We made a batch in August 2018 and waited till last year to cut and taste it. It was one of our best cheeses. I won’t claim that it is really a good comte – I don’t think we’ve managed to quite get it right. But it was still a very good cheese. We still have half and will have to cut it in the next couple of months and see if another year has made any difference. It is such a long wait to know the outcome. I’m planning to make some more some time soon so I was just checking back on the recipe and my notes from the 2018 make and thought I’d say thank you for sharing the results of your research by providing this recipe.
The comte was made by a group of us that regularly makes cheese together on the far south coast of NSW (just a few hours drive from Canberra).
Woow. I am over the moon Liz. I am glad it worked out. Thanks for sharing your results.?