Ah, la fromage française! Brie is the variety that immediately comes to mind when thinking of cheese produced in France. This king of French cheeses is renowned the world over for it’s rich, creamy texture. Brie has been produced near Paris since the Middle Ages and in the 19th century, was the most popular cheese in Europe.
France has many superb regional cheeses
Cheese making in France is a regional art and like most other European countries, the ingredients, techniques and final products vary immensely from one side of the country to the other. The superiority of one particular variety is a source of immense local pride.
Perhaps the next most popular French cheese is Camembert. This cheese is only produced in a small part of Normandy and is often copied by foreign makers. It is produced from unpasteurised milk and transferred into vats. When purchasing Camembert, it is important to pay close attention to the packaging, as a genuine cheese will mention the production process on the label. Proper French Camembert should be a clear yellow colour and have a delicate salty taste.
The Franche-Comte and Savoie regions of France produce a sweet mountain cheese called Emmental. The cows that supply the raw milk for this cheese are left to graze freely throughout the summer, which results in a superior quality product. Production of Emmental is resource-intensive as it takes at least 10 litres of milk to make 1 kilo of cheese. After a relatively long affinage, or maturation period, Emmental turns a pale yellow colour and gains its characteristic holes.
Munster is another of France’s world famous cheeses. Benedictine monks in the Munster valley of Alsace Lorraine first produced it because they were not allowed to eat meat. Munster was therefore, a 12th century tofu of sorts. While the cheese matures, it is turned every other day and given a bath with warmed water sourced from the River Vosges. Munster’s flavour is quite pronounced so it goes well with a good beer.
Beaufort cheese is made from the milk of Tarine cows, which originally came from Indo-China. Ripening takes about four months and must be done in humid mountain chalets. During the ripening process, the cheese is continually rubbed with brine and the rind turns from yellow to a brilliant red.
In addition to these famous varieties, France has many superb regional cheeses, each with their own unique texture, flavour and colour. Often smaller villages make exceptional cheeses made with pure goats milk or a combination of goats and cows milk.
Petit Provençal is a small cheese made from the milk of over 90 goats. Part of this cheese’s rich flavour and creamy texture is due to the goats grazing on Mediterranean greenery. Petit Provençal is one of France’s lesser known cheeses but it is definitely worthy of discovery. You’ll not be disappointed!