You can find delicious cheeses all over the world however, for many, when cheese is mentioned we think of France with its more than 240 varieties. There are many more variations on these cheeses making France one of the most (if not the most) prolific producers of this dairy delight.
French cheeses are classified under four categories: Farmer (made on the farm), Craft (also made on the farm but not necessarily with milk from the farm), Cooperative (several farmers joining together to make cheese) and Industrial (factory made cheese from locally sourced milk). All cheeses are grouped into four general “families,” pressed, soft, blue and others such as goat cheese, all of which are made from three different types of milk; cow, goat and sheep.
Pictured above (left to right): Roquefort, Tomme de Savoie, Crottin de Chavignol, Brie de Meaux aux truffes
It is the soil and climate (much like wine and its terroir) of the various regions of France that give its cheeses a distinctive taste as well as define their appellation. Cheeses such as Brie de Meaux (from the Isle de France), Bleu Auvergne (from Auvergne), Tomme de Savoie (from Savoie) and Roquefort (from the Pyrenees) are all limited in production to the area from which they come.
Some of the most popular and well-known French cheeses include the four mentioned above as well as Camembert, St Nectaire, Morbier, Mont d’Or, Beaufort, Crottin de Chavignol and Emmental. Of course there are many, many more delicious cheeses to savor and explore.
Serving a variety of cheeses is recommended. The ideal cheese platter offers a hard, soft, blue, and fresh cheese, such as goat cheese. When serving cheese before dinner savory accompaniments such as olives, prosciutto, nuts and chutney are lovely pairings. After-dinner cheeses are best paired with sweet accompaniments such as jams, honey, fruits and toasted nuts. The bread is, of course, the most important accompaniment of all but don’t be afraid to think beyond the classic baguette – breads with olives or dried fruit can pair beautifully with cheese.
In France, cheese is often served at the end of a meal either in place of dessert or before dessert but you can enjoy bread and cheese with a bottle of wine anywhere and anytime. It makes the perfect picnic and truly sets the mood for a trip to France…wherever you may be.
Photos by Zoya Stafienko for A.M.A Selections. All images ©A.M.A Selections