Cheese from Aubrac : the Laguiole

On the plateau of the Aubrac, as in all the mountainous regions, the shepherds used domestics animals for farm work as well as pantry because they provided milk, cheese and meat. However, milk was very seasonal because milking and calf suckling was possible only when there was plenty of grass. In order to store the milk, the shepherds created the Laguiole cheese.

The manufacture of the Laguiole knife started in the earliest Antiquity but the monks from the cloistered hospital of Aubrac (called “La domerie d’Aubrac”) made it well-known. They transformed the forest into pastureland for summer, selected the bovine race that became later the Aubrac, develop the production of the Laguiole cheese and invent the famous dish called “aligot” (cheese and mash potatoes). Those new pastures are perfect for the herds, their milk and the Laguiole cheese production. The French revolution chased away the monks but they passed down the knowledges about the cheese production to the “buronniers” (local farmers). They work in their “buron” (house dedicated for the Laguiole cheese production) from May 25th to October 13th each year.
From 1897, the cheese producers created a farming and cheese trade union in Laguiole. In 1940 it became a defense and improvement union trade, they also own a quality label.

From the beginning of the XXth century, the fabrication and number of “burons” decreased. At the end of the 50’s there are only 55 “burons” instead of 300 and they produced 25 tons of Laguiole cheese instead of 700 tons at the beginning of the century. In order to relaunch the production of the Laguiole cheese, young farmers created in 1960 a cooperative called “The young mountain cooperative”. It helps making small farmers structures profitable. The cooperative helps them investing on new installations, modernize their equipment and the reunions of new livestock. Nowadays, the cooperation is collecting nearly all the milk of the region and is the first producer of Laguiole cheese. From the beginning the ambition was to create activity in the region while staying close to the tradition. In 1961, the Laguiole cheese obtains a egional label (“Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée” – AOC) that protects the product and the consumer. With this distinction, the Aubrac region was saved and started again to grow.

The Laguiole cheese is a pressed paste cheese, uncooked, produced only with whole milk from Aubrac cows or French Simmental cows. The milk is produced in Aubrac, a high plateau located between 800 and 1400 meters above the sea level.
The Laguiole cheese is a big cylinder weighting between 20 and 50 kg. It is affined at least 4 months in a cave. The rind is thick, white at the beginning and becomes amber-brown during the maturing. The paste color is between white and yellow. The consistence can be described as smooth and firm but also as creamy and fondant.
Nowadays, the cooperative is producing about 700 tons of cheese per year.