Salers AOP, two millennia of know-how

Salers, which obtained the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in 1979, is a cheese produced in Auvergne for over 2,000 years. It owes its name to the medieval village of Salers where it originates, in Cantal. Elaborated exclusively on the farm, it is made from 100% raw cow’s milk. Its pressed dough is not cooked.

For many centuries, the production of Salers AOP punctuated the life of its producers: from spring to autumn, farmers isolated themselves in the mountains at an altitude of nearly 900 meters. During this period, they took the cows to graze in the summer pastures (mountain area located at high altitude) where the grass is abundant and of excellent quality, and lived in “burons”. These stone buildings, typical of the Auvergne landscape, are still visible on the Cantal, Aubrac, Cézallier and Dore mountains.

Today, the organization of farmers has evolved. Even if some producers still isolate themselves for months in the burons, a majority of them take turns in order to reduce these periods.

A geographical area in the heart of the Cantal volcanic massif

The herds of cows whose milk is used to produce Salers AOP are located in 137 communes of Cantal, 24 communes of Puy-de-Dôme, 5 communes of Aveyron and 1 commune of Corrèze. In addition to these 167 municipalities, there are 7 municipalities in these same departments and one in Haute-Loire where refining is authorized (source inao.gouv.fr).

Salers is produced at the same times as in the past. Its production is framed by very precise dates – from April 15 to November 15 – included in the specifications of the PDO. During this period, the cows graze in the meadows in the heart of the Cantal volcanic massif. This geographical area is ideal for feeding livestock because it offers a diverse and abundant flora. Once the milking of the cows has taken place, the raw milk is transported in the gerle (wooden container) to the farm. Thus begins the manufacture of Salers which, once ready, is entrusted to the refiners. Its refining can last from 3 months to 2 years.

Most of these PDO cheeses, known as “Salers-Salers”, are made from milk from different dairy breeds such as Montbéliarde. Unlike the “Salers Tradition” which is made from the milk of a single local breed of cow, the Salers, by only ten producers. Its taste is slightly more pronounced than Salers-Salers. This production calls for a very precise know-how requiring the presence of the calf during milking. It is only on this condition that the cow will give her milk.

A taste linked to its terroir

The Tomme de Salers is a cylinder about 40 cm in diameter and weighs between 35 and 45 kg. 400 liters of milk are needed to produce a ton of cheese. Each Salers is unique in taste and presents a more or less marked intensity. This variation in tastes can be explained in part by the flora and fauna that vary according to the meadow. This phenomenon is also explained by the different skills of each producer. Among these aromas are notes of grass, hay, nuts, hazelnut and citrus of butter and fermented cream as well as notes reminiscent of the stable of animals.

Key figures:

The Salers AOP sector in a few figures:

  • 1,200 tonnes of cheese per year
  • 4,500 dairy cows
  • 12,000,000 liters of milk per year
  • 78 farm producers
  • 8 refiners

(source : aop-salers.com)