Cancoillotte - Gastro Obscura

Prepared Foods


This decadent cheese has frugal roots.

Cancoillotte is a very creamy cow’s milk cheese that’s almost liquid when hot. Native to the Franche-Comté region in eastern France, it has a reputation as a cheap, but restorative food.

Historically, it was an affordable cheese for farmers to make, as it was produced using leftover skim milk from the butter-making process. After draining and pounding skim milk–based curds and leaving them to dry, cheesemakers then cooked the mixture over a fire with saltwater and lots of butter until it became smooth.

At the beginning of the 20th century, cancoillotte also featured prominently in a frugal dish known as le poulet de l’horloger (“the watchmaker’s chicken”). The dish is actually vegetarian. As the story goes, watchmakers were poor and couldn’t afford meat, so the “chicken” was actually boiled potatoes covered in warm cancoillotte.

The cheese remains incredibly popular in its native home. Today, 90 percent of cancoillotte is consumed in Franche-Comté. The regional love is so strong that one company began sterilizing and canning the cheese so that local soldiers could bring it to the front during World War I.

Nowadays, cancoillotte is often eaten alone, on bread, but it is also the base of numerous recipes, including other regional products such as Saucisse de Morteau à la Cancoillotte and Saucisse de Montbéliard à la Cancoillotte. Both use the cheese-coated potatoes base of le poulet de l’horloger, but with one key addition: sausage.

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