In France, 37% of the milk is used to make cheese. There is even a saying “one village, one kind of cheese”.
Cheese is very important for French families. There are more than 300 dairy companies in France. Holding to tradition and innovation, they produce over 1500 dairy products including cheese, butter, cream, milk powder, yoghourt and dairy dessert, among which cheese is the most popular and the best to embody French wisdom and art.
The taste of cheese varies according to the nature of weather, geographic environment, pasture, and milk-producing animals. It is also subtly affected by conditions such as yeast, container, production method and aging time. In Normandy which is near the sea, cows and sheep eat salty forage and give special milk. Inland places with scarce forage grass are famous for goat cheese. It’s universally agreed by gastronomes that cheese tastes the best in fall when it gradually becomes mellow.
Some French cheeses are protected by an AOC (appellation d'origine controlée), which guarantees a quality product made according to strict regulations. These cheeses seem to naturally garner more attention than their non-AOC brothers, many of which are surely worth trying.
8 types of French 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.
Soft Cheeses with Natural Rind
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.
Soft Cheeses with Washed Rind
These cheeses are made from cow's milk, but 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 French cheese are submitted to pressure during the processing, which drains the cheese of some of its moisture. After applying pressure, the cheeses are 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.
Pressed and Cooked Cheeses
Before being pressed, the curd is heated for an hour. 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.
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. Goat's milk cheese comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and sometimes special little boxes.
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.
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. Boursin is one well known example.