Fontal is a semi-firm cheese made in flat cylinders, with concave sides, and a thin rind that may be covered with brownish-red wax, or plastic.
Inside, the cheese is a pale straw colour, and supple but dense, with some small holes.
It is made commercially in factories from pasteurized cow’s milk.
It has a mild, nutty flavour, that is almost sweet with a touch of tartness, but the flavour varies depending on who made the cheese. Some versions are tangier than others. The tang in the taste comes out particularly when the cheese is melted.
The milk can come from anywhere. Lactic cultures are added to develop flavour. Rennet is added, and the milk is held at a temperature from 30 to 35 C (86 to 95 F) for 25 to 35 minutes while it curdles. Then, the whey is drained off, and the curd is heated to 38 to 40 C (100 to 104 F) by adding hot water to it.
The curd is then pressed, salted, and put into moulds which are then submerged in brine for a while.
Fontal cheese is usually made in sizes of 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 inches) wide, 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4 inches) tall, weighing 8 to 12 kg (17 to 26 pounds).
The cheeses are aged 40 to 60 days. As they age, the rind browns.
Fontal was first made in France. It’s also made in Belgium by the Kempico Company, and in Italy, in the Trentino region. In Italy, it is known as Fontinella, Fontella, and Fontal.
Fontal was first created as a French knock-off of the Italian cheese “Fontina.” The French called it Fontina, but in 1951 they were forced by law to come up with another name. The name Fontal has been used since 1955.