2012 Gastronomy

The slopes are very busy all year long.Once the skiers have left - with the snow - the vegetation returns and prepares…to be eaten!

The slopes are very busy all year long.Once the skiers have left - with the snow - the vegetation returns and prepares…to be eaten!

In the summer, the mountain is the realm of the herds.  Mountain Tarine cows in Maurienne, the black sheep of the Velay in the Massif Central or the Manech black-headed sheep in the Pyrenees, amongst others, thrive on these slopes which become their peaceful home once spring arrives.   The job of farming has considerably evolved over the past few decades -mowing has become mechanised except on the steepest slopes where in some resort-villages in the Alps, for example, grass is still cut traditionally for hay.In some stables, animals are treated with homeopathic remedies.But whilst the work has changed somewhat (what were once peasants have become true entrepreneurs) it has not lost the ancestral know-how which is passed down to the younger generations.Adrien Gachet, a young farmer, “moves” with his animals in the summer, not far from the magnificent Roselend dam.  He produces the coveted Beaufort cheese from the mountain pastures.  Like his forefathers, he milks his elegant Tarine cows - beautiful brown cows with black made-up eyes - after their delicious meal of multicoloured flowers, and then transforms the precious milk on the spot, by heating it in cauldrons which seem to have always been there.“Celine, my girlfriend, and I produce our cheese in the pasture for 110 days.It is a fairly lonely period, only livened up by hikers passing by, who come and talk to us, eager to see how we live and work.In fact we live like our grand-parents used to!”“Up there, we leave our lives down below”, confirms Karine, his twin sister, who sometimes comes to help.“We escape everyday worries and stress.We move in rhythm with nature and the animals.It is a world that makes you feel good.” 

A bit further on, in the Alps, Cyril Champange does the same thing with his Abondance cows, in the Aravis.But from this rich milk comes reblochon cheese.This is, as you know, the king of the favourite skier’s dish –the tartiflette!Everywhere in the mountains the same thing happens.  Farmersget up - very early in the morning - to milk their animals, cows, goats or sheep, then go to set up the parks - zones where the animals will graze calmly.When the cheese is not being made in the pastures, in the Beaufortain, the “harvest” is delivered to the “dairy” -a worker comes to collect the milk from the different producers and centralises it at the Cooperative at Beaufort-sur-Doron.There, according to a very strict specification, wheels of cheese weighing 40 kg are produced, all worthy of the famous AOC label.  Whilst waiting to be delivered to cheese sellers, they will age several months in the cellars of the “Coop”, brooded like fragile fledglings.It is the secret of this cheese, which, when we taste it, makes us imagine we are in Heidi’s country…

By Myriam Comu

Cheese / Tarine cow at Roselend © Stéphane Balbo

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