I’m in France learning about the production of Comté Cheese when I visit a restored farmhouse dating from 1736 in the Franche-Comté region.
Noël Myotte and his wife decided to open their farmhouse as a museum after they were awarded the best restored farm in 1981. Entering a store selling meats, cheeses, local wine and sweets that once served as the stable, I am invited into the main part of the museum by Noël who is obviously proud to show off the restored farmhouse.
He explains through an interpreter that the first room is actually a massive chimney. Traditionally, the tué was the kitchen and was always situated in the middle of the house. The tué has no window or door leading outdoors but it gave access to all the other rooms, including the stables. The room was heated by logs on the floor.
The oven also gave off heat on days when bread and cakes were baked. At a later date, the rooms occupied by the family were heated by earthenware stoves fueled from the tué with fire embers.
This is also where cooking and heating water took place, washing clothes, and making Comté cheese; each week a master cheese maker traveled from farm to farm with the skill for making the cheese, using the milk from neighboring farms in addition to the farmer’s own supply. The farmer salted the cheese rounds and matured them on wooden racks, taking care to turn them at regular intervals over several months.
I look up and there are dozens of hams hanging from the rafters. This is another time-honored tradition; salting and drying meat to preserve it.
Since the tué was the only heated room in the house. Fir and juniper wood was used on the fire and there was a lot of smoke. This abundant smoke had the effect of giving a special flavor to hams, sausages and other cuts of meat.
The rest of the house is filled with antiques offering visitors a glimpse into a time gone by in rural Franche-Comté. Rooms resemble a dining room and bedroom, and there are two rooms filled with 18th century implements and tools.
Noël welcomes more than 30,000 visitors to his shop and museum every year, from Easter to early November.
As with many attractions in Eastern France, you may need an interpreter. Generally there are English speaking employees at restaurants and hotels. The farmhouse museum and my many other experiences, while learning about Comté cheese, was a fun and educational experience. If you are interested in culinary history; go. You’ll have a wonderful time.