Laguiole cheese (pronounced “layole”) is a semi-hard French cow’s milk cheese produced in south-central France. The only breeds of cows that can be used in producing Laguiole cheese are Aubrac and French Simmental, raised in the Aubrac area of France’s Massif Central, a high plateau located between 2,600 and 4,500 feet of altitude.
The cheese is presented as a large cylinder weighing from 44 to 110 lbs. of 10 to 15 inches in diameter. Its thick and dry crust is a whitish color that can range from pale gray to amber brown during the maturing process, while its base, which varies from an ivory color to straw yellow. It has a supple but firm consistency, is creamy and melts in your mouth.
It obtained protected designation of origin status in 1961 in France, and EU-level protection in 2001. This means that the cheese may only be produced in the specific geographic region mentioned above using specific, time-tested techniques that are designed to ensure the finished product’s high quality.
The cows are fed on nothing but grass, and all feeding with hay is forbidden. The cows are kept in pasture night and day during at least four months per year. The annual milk production per cow may not go beyond 6,000 liters per year. On the Aubrac plateau, the vegetation is very rich and fragrant, which contributes to the richness of the milk and the flavors of the Laguiole cheese.
This cheese has a long and deep history in the Aubrac area of France where it is produced, dating back to antiquity. The monks of the region are the ones who eventually brought the cheese to greater commercial success. At the end of the 14th century, Aubrac had become the center of a vast dairy, cheese and beef production area, thanks in part to the work of these monks.