French cheese, as the name suggests, is the cheese that is made in France. The country is known for producing the largest number of cheeses in the world, as many as 1000 different ones. Hard or soft, made from cow, goat or sheep, fresh or aged, you will find almost all types of cheese in France. Even for a particular type of cheese, say fresh cheese, there might be different varieties. Much of the cheese in France is made by small independents or co-operatives that follow their own, distinct styles, so each one of them will differ from the other.
Storing French Cheese
French cheese must be stored at a cool, dry location, which can include a wine cellar too, if it's not too humid. However, the cheese should have a mild aroma and be in small quantity. Otherwise, it might affect the wine. While storing French cheese, take care to wrap it in paper, rather than plastic. This is because the former allows cheese to breathe. In case you store it in fridge, take it out an hour before serving, to allow the natural aromas and taste to come to the fore.
Types of French Cheese
There are as many as 1000 different cheeses produced in France, which can be classified into the following types:
The term 'fresh' is associated with French cheese when it is produced without any major whey draining. At the same time, it is not matured. Fresh French cheese can be salted and flavored (with pepper, garlic, herbs, etc) or sweetened and flavored (with fruit/fruit aroma).
Soft Cheese with Surface Moulds
Soft French cheese, with surface moulds, has a white and velvety surface. A soft and creamy cheese, its preparation does not involve heating or pressing of curd. While preparing the cheese, a special white mould, apart from the normal bacteria culture, is added. As the soft cheese matures, its surface gets covered with the mould, known as la fleur.
Soft Cheese with Washed Rind
Soft French Cheese, with washed rind, has a surface mould, but does not involve addition of white mould. In order to promote the maturation of the cheese, its surface is washed/brushed in saltwater or a solution of a selected bacteria culture. It is this treatment that gives the cheese a red/orange color and its characteristic flavor.
Soft Cheese with Natural Rind
Soft French Cheese, with natural rind, also has a surface mould without the addition of white mould. It differs from soft cheese with washed rind in the sense that it is wrapped, in wine leaves, or sprinkled, with ashes, during the maturation period. There is no particular surface treatment.
Blue French cheese is a soft cheese that has a special blue mould added to it, apart from the normal starter culture. Before being put aside for maturation, the cheese is pierced with needles. The piercing process is what makes the blue mould (oxygen demanding) grow inside the curd.
Pressed, Unheated Cheese
The 'pressed and unheated' cheese of France is pressed mechanically, mainly with the purpose of draining whey. In this case, the maturation period is longer, as compared to soft and molded cheeses, and gives the cheese a special texture and flavor.
Pressed, Heated Cheese
The 'pressed and heated' cheese of France is also mechanically pressed, but, at the same time, it is also heated. The combination of pressing and heating ensures maximum whey drainage. Apart from that, there is hardly any difference between heated and unheated, pressed cheese.
Processed French cheese is made by heating/melting pressed cheese. While making this type of cheeses, various combinations of milk, cream, whey powder, melting salts and flavorings are added.