Nothing says “amour français” like an oozing triple crème. The French enjoy a lot of cheese and more importantly, they are deeply connected to and proud of their cheese. As well they should be! Some varieties are available in every supermarket, some are specific to a region, and others are local to just a village or community. They have a rich and storied cheese history, a deep-rooted culture of cheese, and more than a thousand cheeses in their lexicon.
France takes its cheese so seriously that they have a whole system of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC). This means "controlled designation of origin," and serves to protect the authenticity of cheese. Here are just 10 of the hundreds of French cheeses you should try during your time travelling through France.
Many who taste Cantal will compare its flavour and texture to Cheddar. This French cheese can be found in two varieties, either made with pasteurized milk (Cantal Laitier) or with raw milk (Cantal Fermier). The length of aging influences how sharp the flavour of this hard cheese is and as mentioned above, there are strict protocols to be followed before this variety of cheese can be called Cantal.
"Tomme" is a generic French term for a wheel of cheese, and usually refers to a smaller wheel. Tomme de Savoie then means "cheese from Savoie," and it is made from skimmed milk—after the cream has been used for butter, or richer cheeses—and the result is a musky and satisfying cheese. The cheese is semi-soft, with a tough rind. Tomme de Savoie looks and tastes rustic, earthy and is well worth a taste test while in France.
Emmental is one of the lightest French cheeses, and is the type of cheese you are likely to get when you order a sandwich in France. The cheese originated in Switzerland and even for people who don't love cheese, there's nothing better than walking the streets of Paris with a baguette “jambon-fromage” (or “with ham and cheese”) full of this cheese.
This cheese is harder than many soft cheeses, and has a very ripe odour, which makes this cheese one of the 'smelliest' of the French varieties. Thankfully, the flavour is softer than the smell would have you believe so if you can get past the smell, you’ll be rewarded with a rich and surprisingly mild-tasting cheese.
This soft cheese is native to the northern regions of France and is the original cheese from which cheesecake was first made. If cheesecake isn’t your speed, try spreading it on bread for a tasty treat!
Camembert cheese is, like Brie, one of the most famous French cheeses and is generally known about and enjoyed around the world. The cheese is gently pasteurized so it tastes less like truffles and has an amazingly complex flavour. Good Camembert is creamy with earthy and mushroom flavours.
Brie is one of the most famous of the French cheeses alongside Camembert. These are two of the most commonly exported cheeses and variants of Brie and Camembert can be found in supermarkets around the world. Of course, getting fresh Brie in France from a fromager and getting a world-class baguette at a nearby boulanger is the perfect way to begin a quintessentially French meal. Don't forget to pack a bottle of world-class wine to pair with the cheese and bread!
Goat's cheese is another popular cheese among cheese lovers, and just like blue cheese, goat cheese comes in many different varieties in France. The youngest goat cheeses are pale white and quite soft in flavour; the older cheeses darken on the outside and become stronger in flavour with age. Most goat cheeses come in small round circles, often called “crottin de chèvre.”
This pressed, uncooked, raw sheep cheese has layers upon layers of scrumptious flavour. It's one of two sheep's milk cheeses with AOC designation (the other is Roquefort), and you can really taste the difference sheep’s milk makes. The flavour is mild yet shockingly complex. The cheese is firm, smooth, sweet and a little nutty.
Langres is dense, oozy and creamy and is perfect for scooping up with a crusty baguette. The cheese is definitely stinky, but not hit-you-over-the-head stinky. Langres is a cheese that justifies France’s credibility as cheese-making experts.
France is famously known for having more cheeses than there are days in the year. Now that you have a list of cheeses to try, make a list and take it with you during your travels to France. While you’re at it, be sure to purchase international travel insurance as well from Cover-More Travel Insurance. As a policyholder you will have access to 24/7 emergency assistance and more. Rest easy knowing your holiday is protected and enjoy some cheese as you become immersed in the wonderful French lifestyle.
Image courtesy of Flickr users (in order), Joselu Blanco, Fronx, JaBB, Mumumio, Tristan Fern, Richard North, Christopher Mooney, Steven Depolo, Shell Bell, Rebecca Siegler.