Le Fromage: The World of French Cheese (Part 5)

Posted on 30. Jul, 2014 by in Cooking, History, Wine

Image by jenny downing on Flickr

Image by jenny downing on Flickr

This is the last installment in our series on French cheese. I hoped you have learned a few facts you may not have known before and, most of all, I hope you will take the time to seek out some of these cheeses and experience them for yourself. You should be able to find them in specialty stores around your area.

Let’s turn the cheese tray to sink our teeth into two more cheeses, one of which you may already be eating.

Boursin

Boursin is the newest member in the family of cheeses we’ve discovered so far. Created by François Boursin in 1963 in the Normandy region of France, Boursin has become one of the most popular French cheeses across the world. Go into any grocery store in the United States and you are likely to find some variation of Boursin. And that is one of the virtues of Boursin. It comes in many different flavors that appeal to a wide audience.

Made with cow’s milk, Boursin is unique in that it contains herbs, de l’ail, du persil et du poivre (garlic, parsley and pepper). It may also contains shallots, chives and even red chili pepper depending on the variety. As a testament to its versatility, besides its usual pairing with bread, Boursin can be added to dishes made with meat, soup, légumes et fruits de mer (vegetables and seafood).

Unlike many other French cheeses, Boursin isn’t strong and has a very creamy texture that makes it easy to spread on bread or crackers. Boursin’s mild flavor explains its popularity among American audiences who may be averse to the much stronger French cheeses. Boursin has even earned its very own website where you can learn about the different varieties and try recipes containing the cheese.

The original slogan “Du pain, du vin, et du Boursin” (Bread, wine and Boursin) really says it all.

Pont-l’Évêque

Hailing from Normandy, just like Boursin, Pont-l’Évêque was created dans une abbaye (in an abbey) in Normandie somewhere around the 12th or 13th century. Originally named d’Angelot, the cheese took on the name of the village of Pont l’Évêque where it was produced around the 16th or 17th century.

A rich and creamy cheese made from either pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s milk, Pont-l’Évêque has a light orange rind and is always shaped into un carré (a square). A full-bodied red wine can be paired with Pont-l’Évêque and the cheese is often melted to create a delicious, albeit rich, fondue.

 

Le Fromage: The World of French Cheese (Part 4)

Posted on 28. Jul, 2014 by in Cooking, History, Wine

Image by jmvnoos on Flickr

Image by jmvnoos on Flickr

I hope you’ve been enjoying our little excursion through the world of French cheese. If you dislike the taste of cheese or have never tried a sampling of French cheeses, a basic knowledge of some of the most famous varieties may prove useful someday if you decide to visit France for the first time. Should you find yourself devant un plateau de fromage (before a cheese tray), gazing in wonder at the different shapes and colors laid out in front of you, I hope you remember a few details from these posts.

You might not wish to become a cheese expert, but you will no doubt begin to cultivate une appréciation pour l’histoire et la tradition (an appreciation for the history and tradition) of centuries of French cheese. After all, who can call themselves a Francophile without at least acknowledging France’s mastery of all things fromage?

On that note, let us continue our foray into the cheese universe by exploring two of my favorites.

Cantal

Un fromage ancien (an ancient cheese) whose origins stretch back nearly two millennia, Cantal comes from the Auvergne region in central France, more precisely from the Cantal department, home to a beautiful range of montagnes vertes (green mountains) called the Cantal Mountains. The volcanoes in the area are surrounded by de la terre fertile (fertile land) with pastures perfect for grazing.

A heavy and dense cheese, Cantal is made from cow’s milk and shaped into cylinders with a light brown rind. Cantal has un goût distinct (a distinct flavor) reminiscent of nuts. Paired with fruit or melted into soups or fondue, Cantal is sure to entice even the most incredulous cheese critic.

Reblochon

Reblochon may not have the rich history or cachet of Cantal, but it has a fascinating history nonetheless. Reblochon est un fromage très crémeux (is a very creamy cheese) from the Savoie region, similar to Brie in consistency. Du lait cru de vache (raw cow’s milk) produces Reblochon and in fact the name Reblochon comes from the verb reblocher, a technique used by farmers in centuries past whereby a cow was not fully milked so as to withhold the full supply of milk to be paid as tax to landowners. The remaining milk produced by the second milking was richer and used to produce cheese.

Reblochon must be turned every two days and washed with whey. You will notice un arôme d’herbes (an herbal aroma) that is quite pleasing. Because of its soft consistency, Reblochon is excellent when spread on a baguette and paired with a bold red wine or even a light white wine from the Savoie region.

Le Fromage: The World of French Cheese (Part 3)

Posted on 24. Jul, 2014 by in Cooking, History, Wine

Image by Sonja Pieper on Flickr

Image by Sonja Pieper on Flickr

Our third installment in this series on French cheese will introduce you to two varieties you may have heard of but never tried. Check out the first and second installments if you’re just joining us.

Tomme

A round, firm cheese, Tomme is made from skim milk and therefore has a lower fat content than other cheeses like Camembert or Brie. The rind is une couleur grise (a gray color). Du lait de vache ou de brebis (cow’s or ewe’s milk) is needed to produce Tomme but there have been instances of goat’s milk producing a delicious Tomme in the Basque country, a region in the western Pyrénées, une chaîne montagneuse qui sépare la France de l’Espagne (a chain of mountains separating France from Spain).

Unlike some cheeses, Tomme is not produced solely in one region. There exist a variety of Tommes, each with their own flavor and method of production. The most famous Tomme comes from the Savoie region in the Alps and is aptly named Tomme de Savoie.  There is Tomme de Lozère, Tomme Corse, Tomme de Belloc and many more.

Tomme is a rather versatile cheese that can be paired with either red or white wines. It can also be eaten alongside fruit or charcuterie (jambon, saucisses, pâté, etc—ham, sausages, pâté, etc.).

Munster

Munster originated in the Vosges, a mountainous region in the northeastern part of France near Germany. It was created by des moines Bénédictins (Benedictine monks) in the 12th century as a way to supplement their diet since they were not allowed to eat de la viande (meat). It has remained a specialty of the Vosges since then and has become one of the more popular French cheeses around the world. However, Munster is not to be confused with the American cheese Muenster, so if you are looking to try authentic French Munster, make sure you pay attention to the spelling on the label.

Munster is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and must be turned and hand-washed every two days to give the cheese its characteristic strong flavor. The rind has a light orange color and remains moist because of the frequent washing. If you’ve never tried Munster, you might think something is wrong with le fromage mouillé que vous venez d’acheter (the wet cheese you just purchased), but this is normal.

In the Alsace Lorraine region, Munster is typically eaten avec des pommes de terre et des onions (with potatoes and onions) in traditional German fashion. Because of its Franco-German heritage, a hearty German beer or a French wine from Alsace such as Gewürztraminer provide a wonderful pairing when savoring a good Munster.