If you’re interested in learning French cooking techniques, it’s important to know the basics of French food. The European nation is especially known for its plethora of strong, fragrant cheeses. However, with dozens of local and regional variations it’s hard to know where to get started. Though not every French cheese can be easily found in the states, some of the more popular varieties are cheeses we’ve come to know and love. Here is a basic guide to five of France’s most popular cheeses:
This cheese is named after the town in which it originated. By French law, Camembert requires at least a 21-day affinage. Camembert has a salty taste, making it the perfect complement to bread, fruits and nuts. This cheese is made from cow’s milk and although it is matured all the way through, it is only ripened at the surface. This cheese is often compared to Brie.
Despite its similar spelling, French Munster cheese is not the same as the cheese enjoyed in the United States. American muenster has a different flavor, texture, and consistency. Munster exclusively comes from a small region in France near Vosges in Alsace, and locally is known as gerome. The flavor of Munster complements pedestrian meals such as potato dishes and is often paired with beer rather than wine. Munster is also made from cow’s milk and traditionally the cheese is matured in caves.
Though gruyere is known as a popular French cheese that’s a main ingredient in a Croque monsieur, it is actually Swiss in origin. Gruyere is a semi-soft, unpasteurized cheese made from cow’s milk that has a very nutty, earthy flavor. This cheese is generally aged for 5-12 months, and a stronger flavor is produced the longer it matures.
Chevre is entirely made from goat’s milk. In fact, the word directly translated to goat in French. The texture of chevre changes as it matures, and the flavor becomes a bit sharper. This cheese is extremely versatile in the kitchen. Chevre is often used as an addition to salads, pizzas, hamburgers, bread and omelets.
This cheese is made from sheep’s milk and is one of the oldest cheeses in the world. Roquefort is an extremely popular variation of bleu cheese that has no rind and can be easily identified by distinct, green veins of mold. Though the visible mold might scare off more timid eaters, the flavor of Roquefort is complex and creamy.