Americans love cheese, but the French take their adoration to a whole other (very delicious) level, with the average French citizen consuming 10.5 kg more than their American counterparts in 2016. They may have given us Lady Liberty, but we’re most grateful for their cheesy contribution to our food culture so we took a dive into some of the most popular imports from France.
Brie de Meaux
Brie is probably the best known of all the French cheeses, and Brie de Meaux is the Brie Americans are most familiar with. Unlike many Bries, de Meaux (named for the region in which is produced) is pasteurized as our FDA demands and thus can be legally imported and sold within the US. Pasteurization takes away a bit of the creaminess, but de Meaux—made from cow’s milk and usually aged about six weeks—remains ooey-gooey, often with a nutty finish and earthy notes that reminds some of mushrooms.
Also named for its place of origin (in this case, a small village in Normandy), Camembert is one of the “newer” cheeses to be produced in France—only dating back to the 18th century. Rumored to be a favorite treat of Napoleon, it spread throughout the country (and around the world) in the 19th century and today, Camembert is still a favorite of cheese-lovers. Also made of cow’s milk, it’s more gently pasteurized than Brie and aged only for about one month so its flavor profile is a little cleaner, very creamy and often described as almost egg-y.
When Syrian fighters invaded Western France in the 8th century, they brought along their goats and showed the French how to make delicious, creamy cheese from their milk, which came to be known as chèvre, meaning “goat” in French. Today there are many types of chèvre made across France (Bucheron, Tomme de Bethmale and Valençay, to name just a few), and their richness and flavor intensity varies greatly depending on how long its aged.
Comté is another cow’s milk cheese but unlike its fellow cow milk cheeses Brie and Camembert, it’s semi-hard in texture. Produced in the Jura Massif region of Eastern France, it was one of the very first cheeses to be given coveted AOC (Appellation d’origine controlee) status back in 1958—a kind of stamp of authenticity the French award certain products. Comté is aged a minimum of four months but is typically given 12 to 18 to fully mature. It’s loved for its nutty flavor and it’s great for melting, which makes it a popular cheese for fondue.
Hailing from the gorgeous countryside around the tiny town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in Southern France, this sheep’s milk cheese is aged two to four months. According to French lore, a young man of the village abandoned his lunch of cheese and bread in a cave to chase after a beautiful girl (that cheese probably would have helped your game, bro). Upon returning to the cave a few months later, the cheese was covered in the now-famous Penicillium roqueforti that appears as blue-green veins throughout the cheese. Tangy and both spicy and sweet, Roquefort is a favorite cheese for topping salads and even burgers.