The French cuisine is something I discovered recently. It has so much more offer, other than the crepe’s and creme brulees. So let’s start with the basics – French love their Pain, Fromage et Vin (bread, cheese & wine) and incidentally I love them too. First nourriture (food) I discovered in France was the Baguette, when I boarded my metro for my house, most of the fellow passengers were either munching on their long sandwich looking bread or carried lots of them in their bags. A common site in France. I can keep writing about food but I shall stick to what i’m here for now.
The first time I got introduced to the array of French cheeses was at my first French Dinner, hosted by a lovely lady -wife of my Boy’s colleague. That was my most personal experience with the French Gastronomy, compared to all the restaurants and cafe’s I had visited earlier. So after we finished our aperitif (Drinks served before the meal), dinner and wines — served lavishly. We were served with array of cheeses, bread and wine again. This was before our desert and coffee arrived. So now you know, how long a traditional French meal takes :).
This dinner experience led to series of discoveries of ‘Fromage’ at the local super-market. It made me more inquisitive to the varieties and taste. As I stepped into each super-market I got more confused. Racks and Racks of cheeses — how do we actually choose them? Trying each of them was impossible! Cause France holds around 400 varieties, both industrially and farm made.
So some experimenting, analyzing, researching and discovering led to this. So that just like moi, nobody gets lost in a super-cheesy– market. I am going to list down few cheeses, I personally think are most famous and must-try here.
Basics about French Fromage :
- There are 3 types of Cheeses — Pressed, Soft & Blue Cheese.
- They are made up of 3 types of Milk — Cow, Goat & Sheep.
- There are in two ways of making cheese — Industrial & Farmhouse .
- Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), which translates as “controlled designation of origin”, is the French certification granted to certain wines, cheese, butter and other agricultural products.There are about 40 cheese in the list now.
- 56 cheeses are classified, protected, and regulated under French law.
- French cheese grouped into eight categories ‘les huit familles de Fromage’ (The eight families of cheese).
I tasted this cheese during my first French dinner I spoke about, I enjoyed it the most among the rest of the cheeses served. It has a strong smell and taste, But that’s what I liked about it.This cheese is from the Normandy region,which I visited later that year.
Camembert is a small village in Normandy where the cheese was originally manufactured. Camembert taste creamy and slightly salty and it’s made of cow’s milk.It usually comes in cylindrical shaped packaging in the super markets. It is soft inside and the crust can be eaten (Should be I insist :)).The ripe Camembert is perfectly soft. A young one, will be little hard and dry and a overripe one will have a yellowish exterior with a strong smell. I enjoy it most with just baguette.
Boursin is another cheese that comes from Normandy Region. It has a a smooth, creamy texture and flavor ideal for spreading it on crackers, breads, toast slices, bruschetta, crostino etc.It is Made from cow’s milk.
Boursin has a texture more like butter and comes in various flavors you can choose from — Garlic & Fine Herbs, Pepper, Shallott & Chive, Light Garlic & Fine Herbs and Garlic & Roasted Red Pepper. They can make a very good appetizer with your apéritif for a party.Customer’s can usually get confused between Boursin and Gournay.”All natural Gournay cheese” is simply a way of identifying a package of cheese, as authentic Boursin.If this is not written in the package then it might not be a true Boursin.For me it’s more of “on-the-go-cheese” whenever I’m late, I simply spread it on the bread and eat it.Garlic & Fine herbs is my favourite.
Comté (also called Gruyère de Comté or Comte Fort Saint Antoine) is a French cheese produced in the Jura Massif region of Eastern France. Only milk from Montbeliarde cattle or French simmental (or cross breeds of the two cow’s) are permitted.
The texture is semi-hard with a crust and is pale yellow color. Comte has a long maturing period of about 6 to 24 months.The more aged this cheese is the tastier it is supposed to be.It can usually be cut into small cubes and used as appetizer. It is also a traditional fondue cheese.I first came across this on a Sunday brunch. I usually don’t buy this cheese. But I get it in restaurants around the city.
Chèvre or goat cheese. I needed no introduction to this, from the time I landed, I have seen Chevre in everything, It available is abundant. It is pure white in color and made of goats milk.It has a salty flavor to it. It has again a creamy texture.
People say its a little strong for first timers. But I have always liked it.This cheese is lower on fat and works as a perfect substitute for dieters.You will mostly find it in Sandwiches, Paninis and Pizzas around France. I don’t have to buy this cheese. I get it around always, especially my institute cafe.I munch on mozzarella & chevre panini whenever possible :). I suggest to try this on 4- Fromage Pizza.
Roquefort — The King of French cheese. I had heard about this cheese, but actually gave importance to it in my French class. My bad! This cheese is made up of sheep’s milk with induced “penicillium roqueforti” and finally ripening in natural caves that gives us the unique taste and look of the cheese. The cheese has semi-hard texture and is white with green veins in the mold developed by the fungus.
The largest cheese is produced by a Société, which is owned by Lactalis and supplies an estimated 60 percent of the world’s Roquefort, which holds several caves and opens its facilities to tourists. The 11-story cave is worth a visit in the town of Roquefort, south of France. Personally I need to lay my hands on this cheese. This cheese is not for the faint-hearted. It has strong pungent odor and a confusing taste. But then its famous for the same reason!
CHEESY TIP’S :
- Pack cheese in a wax paper and put it into a loose fitting bag for storage.
- Cheese can be taken out from refrigerator 1 hr to 30 mins before serving.
- While serving, the cheese should be cut in a way that it makes equal parts for everyone.(French Manner)
- Round cheese are cut into wedges, like a cake (You can keep this in mind, when you cut in a restaurant or for dinners)
- Cheese bought in slices should be cut length wise, rather than across.
Before I finish I will leave you with a Cheesy Map of France
and before it gets too Cheesy out here 😀 —! Bon Appétit ❤ !