Types of French Cheese
Les huit familles de fromage
You might try classifying the different types of French cheese in several ways. You could use the region of origin, the type of milk, or perhaps the fat content. But, course, France has its own system.
Known as les huit familles de fromage, or eight families of cheese, this system of classification is based roughly on some key characteristics of the cheese. They need all eight families, because there are a lot of different cheeses in France. It is said that there are so many different types of French cheese that even if you ate a new one each day, it would take you more than a year to try all of them!
With all of these varieties, there is a lot you could learn about French cheese, but the most important thing is to pull up a chair and start tasting. Here is an introduction to the eight families to get you started.
1. Fresh Cheeses
These cheeses are white and contain a lot of water. They are made from cow's milk, goat's milk, or sheep's milk and are not aged. Rather than adding rennet, which is used to create some cheeses, the curd is formed by adding lactic
starter to the milk.
These are not the types of French cheese you would see offered on a cheese platter at a meal. Rather they are eaten separately, sometimes in the same manner as a yogurt, and sometimes used in recipes.
Some popular varieties of French fresh cheeses are: Petit Suisse and Brousse.
2. Soft Cheeses with Natural Rind
Fromages à pâte molle et à croûte fleurie
These are soft cow's milk cheeses, which you will recognize by their white, almost floury surface. They are aged about a month. These include a lot of well known types of French cheese that you may have tried, and which are often served
in France after the main course.
Some popular varieties are: Brie, Camembert, Neufchatel Cheese and
3. Soft Cheeses with Washed Rind
Fromages à pâte molle et à croûte lavée
Once again these are cheeses made from cow's milk, but this time the rind is washed during the aging process, which prevents the formation of surface molds. This washing produces a supple and colorful rind. These types
of cheese also find their way on to French cheese platters.
A few of the better known varieties are: Munster Cheese, Pont-l'Évêque,
Reblochon Cheese, and Epoisses Cheese.
4. Pressed Cheeses
Fromages à pâte pressée
These types of French cheese are submitted to pressure during the processing, which drains the cheese of some of its moisture. After applying pressure, the cheeses are than placed in carefully controlled conditions and aged for several months.
During the aging, they are washed, brushed and turned so that the rind forms in a uniform fashion. You will find a large variety of pressed cheeses in the French supermarket.
Two very popular varieties are: Cantal and Ossau-Iraty.
5. Pressed and Cooked Cheeses
Fromages à pâte pressée et cuite
Before being pressed, the curd is heated for an hour to make these types of French cheese. They are formed in large cylinders and are ripened for a long time. They are commonly manufactured in the mountainous regions of France.
These are cheeses that are often used to cook with, especially to top hot dishes with.
Popular varieties are: Emmental and Gruyère.
6. Goat Cheese
Fromages de chèvre
Although you could fit the various goat cheeses into the other categories, there are so many of them that the French have given them their own family. There are officially over a hundred varieties of goat cheese in France.
Sometimes the goat's milk is mixed with cow's milk to create a mi-chèvre. Pur chèvre contains only goat's milk. Goat's milk cheese is fun - it comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and sometimes special little boxes.
Three popular ones are: Crottin de Chavignol, Pouligny-Saint-Pierre and Selles-sur-Cher.
7. Blue Cheeses
Fromages à pâte persillées
These types of French cheese are easily recognized by the channels of blue or greenish-blue that run throughout them. They are mostly made from cow's milk with the notable exception of Roquefort, which is made from sheep's milk.
Blue cheeses are ripened a long time and have a strong flavor and smell. They make a great cheese to offer as part of a cheese platter after the main course. Some of the well known varieties are: Bleu de Bresse, Roquefort, and
Learn more here: French blue cheese.
8. Processed cheeses
Fromages à pâte fondue
These types of French cheese are made from other cheeses blended together. They are usually sold in small portions and can be flavored with various things, such as garlic, pepper, and herbs. They are meant to be spread, and you might
even catch a Frenchman eating this cheese as an appetizer! Boursin is one well known example.
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