Saint Nectaire

Saint Nectaire

Saint Nectaire

Hi again! It’s been awhile.

If you’ve been keeping track of this blog closely, you probably noticed that I came in three cheeses shy of the full 24 by August 2017 – the deadline I had set for myself at the outset of this project. Sigh. It happens. #life. Discipline is great and all, but I started this project as a way to channel some free-floating anxiety into something creative, not as a chore to create more tension, so discipline be damned!

That being said, some structure is nice, therefore I have made the executive decision to extend my deadline to the new year (but will extend again if need be) and have returned with my 22nd post, featuring a stellar comeback cheese: Saint Nectaire.

Some Context:

This French classic hails from the famed Auvergne region of France where a 25-mile-long chain of volcanoes makes for some pretty nice terroir.

St. Nectaire is a semi-soft-cow’s-milk-washed-rind-er and just like many cheeses I’ve covered on this blog, it was adored by a historical European figure. Ever since the 17th century when Henri de La Ferté-Senneterre, the Marshal of France and the cheese’s namesake (Senneterre → St. Nectaire), introduced the cheese to Louis XIV, it was a favorite of France’s king.

Traditionally, St. Nectaire is made from the milk of Salers cows, native to the Auvergne. These cattle graze on wildflowers (think violets and wild fennel) all summer long. On the cusp of autumn, dairy farmers collect this rich and flavorful milk in a vat and begin the cheesemaking process.

Historically, St. Nectaire is aged in damp volcanic caves – some of which were dug out by troglodytes as far back as 900 A.D.!  The volcanic rock is porous and retains moisture, creating an excellent environment for the growth of fungi. For five to twelve weeks, St. Nectaire ages on top of rye straw which encourages the growth of a mold called Trichothecium roseum. Today only some cheesemakers continue to age St. Nectaire on Rye for the accustomed terroir it imparts, but back in the day, the straw was ubiquitous. Having Celtic roots in Auvergne, Rye used to be used for more than just aging cheese. Besides being an ingredient in bread, it was actually used as a currency in the Middle Ages.

I digress.

The affineur flips the cheese every two to three days, rubbing it down by hand so as to reduce the proliferation of mold and promote the growth of flavor-enhancing bacteria.

Once this whole process is complete, it’s either fall or winter – the two best seasons during which to eat St. Nectaire.

Saint Nectaire

Procuring and Tasting:

If you go to a store with a decent selection of cheese, you’re likely to find St. Nectaire – for not too steep of a price. I got mine at Citarella’s for $11.99/lb. St. Nectaire is A.O.C. protected – look out for a green label. 

St. Nectaire is earthy and herbaceous with a buttery, fruity kick to it. Its texture is smooth and creamy with a bitter, granular rind. Per just about every recommendation I read, I paired St. Nectaire with a light-bodied red: Gamay. Its fruitiness brought out the sweetness of the cheese.

Saint Nectaire

Cooking with Saint Nectaire:

I’m sorry to say, I didn’t cook with St. Nectaire 😦 but I hear it’s a great fondue cheese!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s