With a choice ranging from soft, veined and pressed cheeses to goat's cheese and fromage frais, it's not an easy decision picking a cheese in France.
Here is short introduction to the different types of French cheeses:
Made from curdled ewe's, goat's or cow's milk, fromage frais is a rindless white cheese. It can been eaten with sugar, salt, pepper or any other flavouring.
Depending on how long it's left to mature, goat's cheese can be fresh, soft, semi-firm or even brittle. Some cheeses are coated in wood ash, others flavoured with herbs or peppers, and some, like Banon goat's cheese, are wrapped in leaves.
Examples: Picodons, Pélardons, Crottins and Cabécous, as well as Cabrigan, Selles-sur-Cher and many others.
The term soft cheese refers to a soft, unpressed cheese. These cheeses are made from cow's or goat's milk which can be unpasteurised or pasteurised. Some have a bloomy rind which develop a light covering of mould (examples: Brie from Meaux and Melun, Neufchâtel, Camembert from Normandy, Chaource etc). Others have a "washed" rind, which is then covered with morge (a saline solution which encourages a rind to form). The rind then takes on a reddish, orange colour as a result of the many washes that take place during the maturing process.
Examples of these cheeses include Epoisses, Langres, Livarot, Maroilles and Munster.
These are soft cheeses which have penicillium spores added to them in order to encourage the development of mould. Removed from their mould, they are placed in drying rooms (hâloirs) or in cellars and are pierced with long needles which encourage the circulation of air, essential for the development of mould.
Examples: Bleu de Gex, Roquefort, Beu des Causses, Bleu d’Auvergne, Fourme d’Ambert.
These cheeses, which are pressed after they've been moulded, are drained completely. Some pressed cheeses are uncooked and are made from curdled milk (with added rennet) which is not too warm in order to retain the moisture necessary for the maturing process which lasts several months (Echourgnac and Chambaran). Cooked pressed cheeses are cheeses which can be left to mature and which have been produced in mountain pastures. They are made from curdled milk with added rennet which has been fully heated. These large cheeses, such as Comté, Beaufort or Emmental, need to be left to mature for several months.
This type of cheese is made by melting either one variety of cheese or a number of different cheeses which have had the rind removed and have been either grated or cut into pieces, then mixed with butter, milk or cream. They can be flavoured with spices and herbs or mixed with walnuts or ham.