St. Nectaire: An Honest and Earthy Cheese
January 10, 2011
St. Nectaire is an honest cheese. Its flavors and aroma feel like a direct expression of the earth. Although St. Nectaire tastes like something fresh from the vegetable bin, my vegetable-averse son loved this cheese.
St. Nectaire is a semi-soft cheese from the Auvergne region of central France. It has been produced since the 1600’s and was christened “Saint Nectaire” by King Louis XIV. Today, the cheese is made by several producers, with some using pasteurized and some using raw cow’s milk (our sample was made with raw milk). St. Nectaire has a natural, mold-ripened rind and is aged for 3-4 months before market.
St. Nectaire is a rustic, tomme-style cheese. The bumpy rind is covered with fuzzy grey, green and white surface molds. Its blonde interior has small intermittant holes. To the touch, St. Nectaire’s rind is rough and dry, while its interior paste is squishy and pliable.
St. Nectaire is an aromatic cheese: it smells fresh, green and earthy. We detected scents of minerals, grass, soil, mushrooms and green beans.
St. Nectaire’s flavors are sour, tangy, mildly bitter and sweet. Initially, St. Nectaire has a sour milk flavor, but it becomes nutty. It finishes with a green bean flavor that is both sweet and bitter. St. Nectaire lingers in the mouth with a green vegetable after-taste. The cheese has a smooth and pasty texture. The natural rind is edible, but gritty; it adds a strong mushroom flavor to the cheese.
St. Nectaire’s strong earthy and grassy flavors are not likely to appeal to everyone. Its vegetable-like bitterness may turn-off younger eaters, but our juvenile tasters both liked St. Nectaire. This cheese keeps well out of refrigeration and would be great for a picnic or casual meal.
Purchase Notes: We purchased St. Nectaire from Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).