They’ve been making Cantal in the Cantal department of the Auvergne since the time of the Gauls. Because of the rugged terrain and difficulty of transport, it was important to make a cheese that could keep over a long period.
There are two types, Cantal Fermier, a farmhouse cheese made from raw milk; and Cantal Laitier, mass-produced and made from pasteurized milk in a dairy. Both are made from the milk of hay-fed Salers cows milked between 15 November and 15 April. Both kinds have been AOC/AOP since 1956. The summer milk is used to make Salers.
Wheels of Cantal average 40cm in diametre, stand 40cm high and weigh 40 kg —and take 400 litres of milk. They are aged into three versions (none of which has an edible crust).
Cantal jeune: A young buttery cheese, aged for 30 to 60 days
Cantal Entre-Deux: (In-between) aged from 90 to 120 days, with a nice sharp bite. Expat chefs know it as the best French substitute for cheddar.
Cantal Vieux: Aged for over 240 days, with tiny pits made in the rind by cheese mites (it’s seldom seen outside of the Auvergne and specialist fromageries).
Cantal is similar to Pavé Corrézien made in the nearby Corrèze which is also made from raw cow's milk and sold at different ages.
Image by Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0