How to cut French cheeses

Let’s talk about the other quintessential French food, cheese. France is famous for its quality and variety of cheeses. 

How many cheeses there are in France

There are about 400 distinct variety of cheeses. That means you could eat a different cheese each day of the year and you still would not have tasted them all.

And like many things here in France every region has its own specialty of cheese. It can be a great way to discover the country.

There are moist cheeses, hard cheeses, cheeses made from cow’s milk, cheeses made from goat’s milk, cheeses made from sheep’s milk. There are so many cheeses.

And the best cheeses are protected by a system called the appellation d’origine controlee (or AOC – basically a set of rules and trademarks as to how you should make certain cheeses).

Cheeses are a very serious business here in France, and the French are the largest consumers of cheese in the world. French people on average consume 25 kg of cheese a year, which is equivalent to half a kilo a week or 70 grams per day. That’s a lot of cheese. In fact, 50% of French people eat cheese on a daily basis. There is this great French proverb…” a meal without cheese is like a pretty girl missing an eye”

There is this awesome French proverb… “a meal without cheese is like a pretty girl missing an eye” 

Cheese is a source of French national pride, and no one can explain why it’s so good, it’s just in French people genes. 

French cheeses have such a good reputation – a reputation of being some of the best in the world…and that’s probably because it’s truly made with love. A lot of cheeses are made in factories, however, the best cheeses are handmade or artisanal cheese. There is a lot of love that goes into hand making those cheeses. What’s interesting is that the artisan uses the same methods and recipes that they’ve been using for generations before him. They do the same gestures by hand without any machines, and there’s a lot of passion that goes into making cheeses. But in order for it to be truly delicious, it has to be aged for a certain time. This helps the cheese to better than good, it helps it to be excellent. And it happens in the same damp cellars that have been used for years which requires a real savior-faire. It would be hard, if not impossible to copy the artisan way of making French cheeses. 

How do French people eat cheese

The world of French cheese can be a minefield of unspoken rules. Usually, cheeses are eaten at the end of a meal right before dessert. Often with a salad and of course with wine (generally red). They never eat it with crackers; instead, pieces of baguettes are served. You can have a little butter if the cheese is quite strong, like the Roquefort – a sheep milk blue cheese from the south of France. l Another thing is do you eat the cheese Rhine? Well French people will look down on you if you do t eat the rind of a soft cheese, like Camembert. It’s a little different for hard cheese. Do keep in mind that the Rhine is where the most flavor is and that mold is friendly mold.

What to eat and not to eat

There is a lot of confusion abut French cheese rind. To clear it up the French will look down on you if you don’t eat the rind of a soft cheese, like Camembert or Brie. However, for hard cheeses, you are not expected to eat the rind, but you’ll get extra points if you do. No pressure. Keep in mind the rind is where the most flavor is, and the mold that you see on the cheese is friendly mold. French people are not bothered by scraping off the mold and serving the cheese.

How to cut French cheeses

There is a right way and a wrong way to cut cheese, and it all depends on the shape. If it’s a round shape cheese (like the Camembert or Reblochon), you cut it into pie shapes.

If it’s a round shape cheese (like the Camembert or Reblochon), you cut it into pie shapes.

For the log shape cheese (like the chèvre) you cut it into parallel pieces, the same goes for the Compte.

However, it gets more complicated for cheeses with noses (like Brie or Roquefort). You should never chop the nose of a nose cheese, as it the part with the most flavor and therefore everyone needs to have a taste. So you cut it in diagonal pieces so that all guests can have a piece of nose.

As for the smell of French cheeses, well you never say a cheese is stinky, you can say it smells very strongly. However, keep in mind that a strong smelling cheese is a great indication of a good quality cheese and nicely aged fromage. 

Bonne apetite!

What has been your experience with French cheeses? Would love to hear from you, drop us a line in the comment section below.

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