Salers cheese is a French semi-hard cheese made primarily with the milk of the Salers breed of cattle, both of which are named after a small village of the same name. It has a thick, dried crust and is made in the form of a large cylinder which is then cut into smaller sizes for individual sale. Any type of cow can be used to make Salers, but those that are made with only the milk of Salers cows can carry the label “Tradition Salers.”
Salers cheeses have been protected by a Protected Designation of Origin status since 1961. This status strictly regulates the method of production and the geographic area in which it can be produced, protecting the time-tested savoir-faire of its producers.
The history of Salers goes back more than two thousand years. Long ago, Salers was the cheese produced near the medieval hamlet of Salers, situated at 930 meters of altitude. In the spring, the farmers usually brought their cows high up into the surrounding mountains, where the air and grass quality was superior to lower altitudes. All life was organized around the herd and the production of cheese. The cows produced a high quality milk that gives the cheese exceptional characteristics. After all of this time, most Salers cheese producers still follow these age-old methods of high altitude mountain production.
The cheese is produced in two geographic zones, primarily in the Cantal department of France, although a small area of production also exists in Haute-Loire (central part of France). The volcanic mountains possess soils that are rich in phosphoric acid, potassium and magnesium which are associated with the geographic characteristics of the area and make the plant life abundant in quality. It’s these grassy plants that the cows eat that provides such a high quality to the cheeses produced here, creating an inseparable link between the terroir and the cheese that is produced based on it.
Production of Salers cheese is only done between April 15th and November 15th each year, during which time the cattle are at pasture. Keeping the cows at pasture, which is required for this product, allows for a higher quality milk and thus, cheese.