French cheeses are part of French life! They are definitely an accompaniment to a glass of local wine when travelling through France. Think of France and you immediately think of food, wine and cheese! – long before you start thinking about frog's legs and snails.
France produces over 300 different cheeses with an enormous
variety of flavours, textures, sizes and shapes. Some cheeses are commercially
produced, but a great many are made locally and are well worth seeking out. A
trawl of the local markets will invariably produce someone selling cheese they
made themselves, and, in some instances, only yesterday – you can't get fresher
For a formal meal the cheese is served after the meat and
salad but before the sweet or dessert; the idea is that the cheese cleanses the
palate in readiness for what is to come. For an informal meal an assortment of
French cheeses are arranged on a large wooden platter together with luscious
black grapes, apples and pears. This is a fantastic spread and very few people
would ever tire of this!
Of course, together with this wonderful cheeseboard, is
served fresh crusty French bread and creamy French butter. Not forgetting of
course a glass of one or two local wines!
Most French cheeses are for eating rather than cooking. The
French will use cheeses such as Gruyère or Emmental and Italian parmesan for
cooking. French cheeses need a little care and attention for storing. They are
all best eaten when fresh.
Soft cheeses are wonderful and include cheeses such as Brie,
Camembert, Carré de l'Est, Pont l'Eveque, Livarot and many more. They are dry
and firm when first produced but gradually ripen and become soft and creamy.
When over-ripe they can smell very strongly. Don't buy them if they are
discoloured or shrunk, or if already strong smelling.
Wines to serve with soft cheeses or for any other cheeses
are really a matter of personal taste. All French wines are good and you can
choose your own favourite wines. As long as you enjoy your food – that is good
for the body and good for the soul! However, a few tips if you are not sure for
special occasions: it is best to choose sound red wines with a good bouquet. Gourmets
reserve their finest vintage claret for a perfect Brie or Camembert!
These cheeses would include Port-du-Salut, St-Paulin, Tomme
au Raisin, Cantal, Comté , Reblochon and others. These cheeses are bought in
small quantities when very fresh, usually cut from a large cheese or sometimes
pre-packed in small portions.
Wines that are good with these cheeses are light red wines
or dry fruity white or rosé wines.
The most popular of these cheeses is the famous Roquefort
which is made from ewes milk. Other cows’ milk cheeses include Bleu de Bresse. These
can be bought by the slice from a big cheese or individually wrapped portions.
Wines to accompany blue-veined cheeses are usually a full
bodied red Burgundy wine.
These cream cheeses are truly wonderful - but they are
between 40% and 75% fat, so it is a good idea to know this if you need to lower
your fat intake – or, more to the point, not raise it! Cream cheeses should be
eaten as fresh as possible. Cheeses here include Demi-sel, St Florentin, Petits
Suisse, Fromage Monsieur, Fromage le Roi, and many more. The unsalted Petits
Suisses and Pomel are often served as desserts with fresh raspberries,
strawberries, sugar and fresh cream. Heaven!
Wines to serve with the cream cheeses are a medium sweet
white or rosé wines.