During the search for the Cinderella cheese, I stumbled upon something fabulous. You may remember that the mysterious cheese from Thanksgiving that I lost the label for began with a C and that it was similar to Gruyere. The cheesepert (cheese expert, yes this is now going to be a term I use weekly) originally thought I meant Cantal, which must mean that she thought I was an amateur to the cheese tasting world, because while Cantal is wonderful, I would never compare it to Gruyere. When I tasted this fabulous cheese, I said, “No that’s not it, but I am going to get a piece of it anyway.” Why not?! This is how you discover new cheeses.
Cantal is similar to cheddar, but has a smoother finish. I have been noticing lately the rate and way that flavors develop in different cheeses (see, I knew this would turn me into even more of a cheese snob). In most cheddars I have tasted, the development of the flavors is quick: you get that classic sharp, tangy finish almost right away. Whereas with a cheese like Vlaskaas, the flavors are complex and slower to develop. Cantal tastes like a cheddar, but has slower flavor development and has a much smoother finish.
Named from the the mountains in the region in France it comes from, Cantal is a cow’s milk cheese with a short 1-6 month aging process. It is also one of the oldest cheeses in France, said to have been mentioned by Pliny the Elder in 1st century AD.
I grated some Cantal over olive bread, but it would also be a wonderful addition to any sandwich, to a cheese plate with fruit, and excellent with scrambled eggs.
While Cantal was not the cheese I was seeking in my quest, it is a worthy treasure for any cheese connoisseur.