St-Nectaire Cheese is made in Auvergne, France, in 72 districts in total in the Cantal and Puy-de-Dôme départmentes. The cheese has a soft, milky taste.
The average cheese weight is 3 1/2 pounds (1.6 kg), for which about 12 US quarts (12 litres) of milk are needed to make it.
There are two versions of St-Nectaire Cheese, an industrial version, and a farmhouse version.
The industrial ones have runnier insides; while the farmhouse versions are firmer.
The industrial St-Nectaire Cheeses are made in a dairy using pasteurized milk, which can come from several herds. A well-known commercial brand is Roussel.
The farmhouse ones are made using unpasteurised cow’s milk. The milk must come from a single herd of Salers cows.
The cheese is made twice daily, morning and evening. The milk is put in a vat, and starter culture (lactic acid bacteria) and calf’s rennet are added. The temperature is kept at 91 F (33 C) so that the curd is never cooked. Within 15 to 25 minutes, the milk will be curdled, at which point it is cut into pea-sized pieces, then stirred for 15 minutes.
The whey is drained off, then the curd is put in moulds, and pressed. The cheeses are then turned out of their moulds, and stamped with their producers’ mark. They are salted, wrapped in cheesecloth, placed back into a mould, and then pressed for 24 hours, during which time they are turned once.
The cheeses are then stored for 7 days between 42 and 50 F (6 and 10 C), then sent for aging on wooden shelves for about 6 weeks. They are then washed with brine, scraped and turned.
Some producers prefer to only wash the cheese, resulting in ones that have a pink rind; some prefer to only scrape the rinds, giving a grey rind. The grey comes from a mould called “mucor” geotrichum candidum fungus, though the strain varies from cheesemaker to cheesemaker. Other cheeses end up with rinds with mould on them that is white, yellow and red.
The farmhouse versions of St-Nectaire Cheese have a 45% fat content.
St-Nectaire Cheese was originally cave-ripened on straw.
Its French AOC was granted 1 December 1955. Commercial production was allowed starting 5 September 1961.
St-Nectaire is the name of a village, believed to be named after the “Sennecterre” family who were important in France in the 1600s.