The French are the biggest consumers of cheese in the world. We enjoy it between the main course and dessert and also incorporate it in iconic dishes such as tartiflette, aligot or croque-monsieur.
French cheeses are the pride of the country. There are at least 1200 varieties of cheese in France. Each region has its own speciality.
So which are the most famous French cheeses? I present 5 of the most delicious cheeses, the jewels of French gastronomy!
Camembert, one of the most famous French cheeses
Camembert is certainly the most famous cheese in France. Originally from Normandy, it is a soft cheese with a bloomy rind.
Traditionally made with raw cow’s milk, it can also be found made with pasteurised milk. But the taste of camembert made with pasteurised milk is lighter. Gourmets enjoy it with blackberry jam or apple jelly. You can savour it in the “rustic” fashion, simply spread on a piece of bread!
Cantal, a cheese from Auvergne
Cantal is an uncooked French cheese made from cow’s milk. It originates in the Massif Central. It can be found on most cheese boards. Cantal can be eaten with bread, or can be paired with raisins or dried fruits such as nuts.
Cantal has a different taste depending on the maturation period. The most common is the young cantal, aged in a cellar for 30 to 60 days. It has a milky, sweet taste and a firm texture. The older cantal is matured for at least 240 days. It is mainly found in artisanal cheese shops and is a difficult find in supermarkets. Its taste is stronger, a little spicy and the paste is slightly crumbly.
Goat cheese: fresh or aged
France is a country that produces many types of goat’s cheese (fromage de chèvre). This cheese is made with goat’s milk. It is one of the most popular cheeses on the cheeseboard, whether fresh, dry, aged or flavoured.
The strength of its taste varies according to its maturation time. It divides us French, as some prefer it fresh and others dry. It is a real debate! However, goat’s cheese is so tasty that it is used in many recipes such as salade de chèvre chaud, la pizza chèvre-miel and even tartines de chèvre.
Among the many AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) goat cheeses, we can find :
- Selles sur Cher : a soft, raw goat’s milk cheese with an ashy rind, from the Loir-et-Cher region.
- Banon : a soft, goat’s milk cheese with a natural rind wrapped in chestnut leaves and bound with raffia (fibre made from palm leaves). It comes from the South-East region.
- Sainte-Maure de Touraine : a log with an ashy surface and made with whole raw milk. The more it is aged, the more the texture becomes dry and brittle. As its name suggests, it comes from Touraine in the Centre-Val de Loire region.
The French like to eat goat’s cheese plain or with a little fig jam for a sweet and sour taste.
Brie de Meaux, a must-have !
Crowned “king of cheeses” by Talleyrand, Brie de Meaux has never ceased to delight gourmands over the centuries. This raw, cow’s milk cheese is characterised by a soft paste and a white bloomy rind. The older it is, the more pronounced its taste.
It has had an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) since 1980.
You can enjoy it with a glass of cider, a humble piece of bread and some grapes.
Morbier, the star of mild French cheeses
Morbier is one of the most famous French cheeses. It is a cheese made from raw cow’s milk, with an uncooked pressed paste, recognized by its coal line in the middle. It comes from the Jura Mountains. The cheese must be aged for at least 45 days.
It is a cheese that many French people appreciate for its sweetness, its milky and fruity side. About 11,000 tons of Morbier are sold each year.
It can be eaten simply with bread or incorporated in recipes such as pizzas, sandwiches or Morbiflette, a variant of the traditional tartiflette.
These were 5 French cheeses that we like to enjoy with bread, a good glass of red or white wine* or some fruit. In France, cheese is often eaten between the main course and the dessert. When we invite guests, we offer them a varied cheese platter, to appease everyone. To be a good host, try to know your guests’ tastes in cheese, and vary the textures of pastes and maturation.
*Alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health. Consume in moderation.
If you want to read this article in French: Top 5 des fromages français les plus connus
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