World’s most famous types of French cheese

There are between 300 and 400 different, distinct types of French cheeses. Seriously, 400! For comparison, there are only 427 communes in France with a population over 20000, meaning that either my basic math skills have gone awry once again, or the French really love their cheeses. Either way, these dairy delights are becoming increasingly popular beyond the country’s borders, with the annual export of French cheeses commonly exceeding 2 billion euros. Although the international market is still primarily Eurocentric, United States and Japan seem to be developing quite a taste for French cheeses, as their biggest importers outside the EU.

Obviously, we’re not going to cover all of the various types of French cheeses in this article (I could probably visit all of those communes in less time), but there are several prominent cheese types that any heated dairy debate can’t go without. So grab your baguettes and join me as we countdown the five world’s most famous types of French cheeses. Starting with:

Camembert: You go into a diary area at your supermarket and look for a French section, and you’re bound to find Camembert. Possibly the best known of the French cheeses, it dates back to the 18th century, and is rumored to have even been Napoleon’s favorite, so it obviously doesn’t get much more French than that. It is made from a pasteurized cow milk, and by the French law (I’m not making this up), a 21-day aging process, or an affinage, is required before the cheese can be sold. It is yellow in color and salty in delicacy, and it’s usually accompanied by a baguette, or a fine glass of French wine. 

Brie: Another popular heavyweight, this cheese has a rich and long history, dating all the way back to the Charlemagne. Traditionally, brie is physically cast by using a perforated shovel, and is then excessively salted. It takes about 25 liters of pasteurized milk to make one Brie cheese, although the amount of milk used in French cheeses have been somewhat inclining in the recent years. Brie goes well with champagne.

Roquefort – The oldest of all of our entries, Roquefort was first mentioned by Pliny the Elder, and it was Charlemagne’s favorite. Rather than cow’s, ewe’s milk is used to make this cheese, and interestingly enough, it used to reach its maturity inside caves. Today, a more sophisticated sciency method is in place, giving Roquefort a creamy, soft taste. Sweet wine would complement the cheese very well.

Boursin – A bit more sophisticated than the rest of the list (and being a French cheese, that says a lot), Boursin is usually used as a crucial part of most appetizers in French restaurants. It’s made out of milk, but is seasoned with pepper and herbs, giving it a rich flavor, distinct from most alternatives. Once again, you might want to try it with a baguette, and a white wine is usually his liquid counterpart.

Reblochon – this cheese was invented during the Middle-Ages, by farmers who skimmed (accidental pun bonus) on their milk production when the tax officer came in town, since their taxes partially related to the amount of milk they produce. Anyway, once they got back to milking the cows, the milk was much richer, and was used to make Reblochon. In order to speed up the assinage, Reblochon is usually turned over every couple of days and washed with whey. It is soft and creamy, and it goes amazingly with potatoes. For wine enthusiasts, fruity red wine would be quite a match.

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