Know Your French Cheeses
Beautiful illustrations of various French cheeses as featured in Cook's Illustrated magazine/March & April 2007 issue. Here's to give you a little idea of what they are...
Bleu des Basques Brebis - is an artisan sheep’s milk blue cheese made in the Pyrenées mountains, a region of the French Basque country (near the border of Portugal.) These verdant hills here are full of the wildflowers and fresh grass that give the milk its complexity, subtlety, and lightness.
Crottin de Champcol - This is a simple pasteurized goat cheese from the Loire. (Did you know that "Crottin" in French means dung as in manure? The explanation is that old "Crottin" gets harder and browner and tends to look like horse dung or dung in general.)
Tome de Savoie - often made with skim milk after the cream has been used to make butter. It is a pleasant and unpretentious cheese with an approachable, mild flavor. This typical cheese from the Alps was originally made as a result to the lack of milk used for the Beaufort or other Gruyeres. They are produced in large flat wheels.
Valençay - named after a town in central France, it is shaped like a pyramid with the top cut off. Originally, the shape was perfectly pyramidal. Legend says...coming back from a calamitous campaign in Egypt, Napoléon stopped in Valençay. He saw the cheese and with anger took his sword to chop the top off. Valencay has a soft and delicate taste with nutty flavor.
Camembert - made from unpasteurized cow's milk, and is ripened by the moulds Penicillium candida and Penicillium camemberti for at least three weeks. Originating from the Normandy region, when fresh, it is quite crumbly and relatively hard, but it characteristically ripens and becomes more runny and strongly flavored as it ages.
Roquefort - a.k.a. the "king of cheeses" as many proclaim, Roquefort is at least one of the oldest and best known in the world. Roquefort has a creamy-rich texture and pungent, piquant, somewhat salty flavor. The name "Roquefort" is protected by law from imitators. For example, salad dressings made from blue cheese other than Roquefort cannot be labeled "Roquefort dressing."
Brie de Meaux - a nice white and sweet cheese with a slight greyish tinge under crusty white mould; very soft and savory with a hint of ammonia. The white mouldy skin is tasteless and edible.
Morbier - a semi-soft cows' milk cheese named after the small village of Morbier in Franche-Comté. It is ivory colored, soft and slightly elastic, and is immediately recognizable by the black layer of ashes separating it horizontally in the middle. It has a rind (skin) that is yellowish, moist, and leathery. The bottom layer consists of the morning milk and the upper layer is made of the evening milk.
Comte - a cooked and pressed cow's milk cheese, made only from the milk of the Montbeliard cow. It is the first French AOC (label of origin) cheese, guaranteeing the quality of the cheese. It is typically described as salty, mild, and fruity. Some cheese have strong hazelnut flavors, others have subtle hints of nutmeg. Paired well with either dry white or light red wines.
Epoisses (de Bourgogne) - a classic cow's milk cheese originating from Burgundy and has been made in the small town of Epoisses since the late 1700s. In order to develop the characteristic dark orange rind, this strong smelling cheese is washed with brine for several weeks then finished with wine or brandy. It's one of those stinky cheeses where its bark is worse than its bite.
St. Agur - a cow's milk cheese and fairly young, which yields a nice, smooth, creamy and mild flavor, something between a Gorgonzola and Roquefort (not as bold as an in-your-face Gorgonzola!) Perfect spread on pear or apple slices, or just on some French bread or raisin bread. Because of its creamy nature, it melts well in sauces or just on top of chops.