The Various Cheeses from France

Aug 11, 2011
Veronica Brandy

France is world recognized for its wines and gastronomy. Unesco labeled french gastronomy as “part of the world heritage” in 2010. Among various products, french cheeses are famous but quite yet obscures in their classification and origins for the non-french-cheese-aware. So here’s a little overview.

Cheeses from France, among the best in the world?

French cheeses must be obtained from milk or dairy products (cream, buttermilk, fat) and their dry component content must not be less than 23% except for fresh cheeses. Also, if you do not use cow’s milk, the nature of the milk must be indicated (sheep or goat).

An overview of french cheeses

According to their method of manufacture, there are the pressed cheeses (cooked, uncooked or half-cooked), the soft cheeses (natural rind, washed or flowers), fresh cheeses and blue cheeses. The rind cheeses, in turn, have a white crust sprinkled with brown due to the seeding of a fungus in the production. Some soft cheeses are also called “blue”, a color that comes from mold grown on the dough, while the most washed-rind cheeses have an orange color.

To qualify the origin and designation of a cheese, it must meet the standards required for its composition, weight, amount of fat that it contains, milk production. The AOC label ensures the conditions for development and origin of the product.

Roquefort Cheese is the first to have obtained an AOC label in July 1925 and the latest is the Gruyere cheese in March 2007. Yet, 44 different cheeses from the French regions benefit from AOC, but since 1 May 2009, this designation is doomed to disappear in favor of the designation of origin (PDO), valid throughout the European Union. All AOC cheeses are also French PDO.

The different types of French cheese

Among the cheeses from cows milk, 30 are conform to AOP. For soft cheese and rind, note Camembert (Normandy) and Brie de Meaux. For soft cheeses and washed rind, it is the Munster (Alsace), the Pont l’Eveque (Normandy), the Epoisses, Livarot (Normandy) and reblochon (Savoie). Soft cheeses and blue cheeses include among others the blue d’Auvergne, Roquefort, Fourme D’Ambert. The pressed uncooked cheeses  include the Cantal (Auvergne), which one whole piece can reach 50 kg, Morbier(Jura) and Tomme de Savoie.

Among the hard and baked cheeses: emmental of Savoy, and the Beaufort, and Comté(Jura). As for the goat cheeses, 14 of them benefit from the PDO such as Sainte-Maure de Touraine and Chavignol dung that are soft cheeses and rind. Corsica island has a strong tradition of sheep cheeses.

Only four cheeses bears the Red Label which is a national label certifying that a product is of superior quality compared to other products: Brie, Raclette, French Mimolette and Emmental. Only two varieties have the certificate of compliance attesting that a product is subject to the specific rules of manufacture (processing, packaging, origin): the Emmental and the Pyrennean black tomme.

Other varieties, even if they do not benefit from the PDO are recognized for their quality. Among the cheeses made ​​from cow’s milk, including the Pavé d’Auge from Calvados, the Aveyron and garlic Gaperon. The goat cheese, include the roll of Provence, the ball of the Roves, the gasconade, Chirac and the Perigord Pave with truffle. Finally, with regard to sheep’s milk cheeses, the sheep of Loches Pérail is a must.

Photo by: Monica Arellano-Ongpin

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