Gastronomy  All about French cheese: Brie
18/01/201700:00 TV5MONDE

Creamy, gooey, chewy or smelly - the French love their cheese, and there are very strict regulations and standards pertaining to its production. In France alone, there are between 350 to 450 types of cheese, grouped into 8 categories called “les huit familles de fromage”. 
 
Cheese is a must-have in every French household. While French breakfasts are usually sweet and do not involve cheese, those who love a savoury petit déj (short for petit déjeuner, “breakfast” in French) could consider slicing in cheese into their daily baguette. For lunch, a cheese and cold cut sandwich from a local bakery is a popular choice. Cheese plates are also frequently seen with dessert after a meal. 
 
This week, on Épicerie fine - terroirs gourmands, chef Guy Martin takes us to Île-de-France, a historic region in north-central France whose capital is the famed Paris. We are not going to Paris, however; we are heading over to Meaux, a town only about 60 kilometres outside of Paris, one that is synonymous with cheese and home to the famous Brie de Meaux.
 

Commune of Meaux, Seine-et-Marne
 
When we talk about Brie cheese, a notable mention must go to Brie de Melun, the mother of all Brie cheeses. It is said to be the ancestor to the more known Brie de Meaux and is about 1,000 years old. Hailing from the Seine-et-Marne region, the cheese is named after a historic town where cheese (and other foods) thrive in local markets.
 
Like its more popular cousin, both Brie varieties have been granted a French certification called AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée or controlled designation of origin) and AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée or protected designation of origin), an accreditation with geographical indications aimed to govern and standardise the production and origins of agricultural products such as wines, cheeses and butters. Information on the web might give you varying information about the AOC and the AOP, but according to the official website, both Brie varieties have received the two accreditations. AOC is governed by France’s National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO), while AOP is protected by the European Union. Additionally, AOP can only be issued when both authorities have given their approval after the product’s passing of a double set of controls. 
 

 © Ann Mah, who writes a blog on food and travels.
 
What does this all mean, really? For starters, it means that both Brie varieties go through a very strict production process, adhering to the highest of sanitation standards. It also means that the two cheeses are not produced en masse, where quality cannot always be maintained. It also means that there are, technically, less number of authentic Brie cheese in circulation than the non-certified cheeses. Not all Brie can be called Meaux and Melun; only a specific list of cheese producers can use this name.
 
When it comes to taste, the below are some of the main differences between the Melun and Meaux variety (information and image obtained from the official website, Brie de Meaux et de Melun):
 
Brie de Meaux
  • Weighs between 2.5 and 3 kg on average
  • 36 to 37 cm in circumference (on average)
  • Texture: supple, glossy
  • Outer rind: white, thin, streaked with red stripes or spots 
  • Taste: a subtle note of creaminess, butter and hazelnut
  • Maturation: requires between 4 to 8 weeks
  • Fat: 45%
  • Production: 6,785 tonnes
Brie de Melun
  • Weighs between 1.5 to 1.8 kg on average
  • 27 to 28 cm in circumference (on average)
  • Texture: firmer, with openings
  • Outer rind: thin, white rind covered with red or brown streaks or spots
  • Taste: very lactic, saltier, more pronounced taste, outer rind has a stronger taste to it
  • Maturation: 4 to 12 weeks
  • Fat: 45%
  • Production: 213 tonnes (much less in production!)

Here are several ways to enjoy your Brie!
 
Baked whole Brie, seasoned with rosemary and honey


Or enjoy it simply with crackers and jam!

 
For more on the production of Brie, a scenic tour in the region as well as chef Guy Martin’s special recipes, tune in to this week’s Épicerie fine - terroirs gourmands!
 
More information on the Brie cheeses as well as AOC and AOP accreditations:
 
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