Featured Cheese: Brie

According to Wikipedia, Brie cheese is named after Brie, the French province where it originated. It is a soft cow’s milk cheese that can be made from either whole or semi-skimmed milk. It is very soft and pale in color with a white moldy rind that is meant to be eaten along with the soft inner cheese.

Although many varieties are available today that are made all over the world, the French government officially certifies only two types of Brie to be sold under that name: Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun.

The Brie de Meaux , which is manufactured outside of Paris since the 8th century, was originally known as the “King’s Cheese”, but after the French Revolution it was enjoyed by the peasants, as well as, the nobility. However, some sources state evidence of its existence dates back to the time of Charlemagne.

It was granted the protection of the AOC in 1980 (much like Parmigiano-Reggiano was granted for the areas in which that cheese is made).

Brie produced in Australia and the United States are pasteurized (as mandated by law), while Bries produced in most parts of Europe are not. True French Brie is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and is illegal to import to the United States. Cheeses made from raw milk must be aged at least 60 days to be legally allowed to be imported into the United States, this is too long for Brie, which would be overripe. Bries made from pasteurized milk have a milder flavor.

Typical aging time for this cheese is four to six weeks. It is aged in a cellar. French Brie has a lower fat content, about 40%, than Brie produced in the United States which has up to 60% fat content.

Purchase Brie rounds that are no more than an inch thick and should have a sweet odor. The outer portion should be firm and the inner portion should be soft but not watery.

Thicker Bries will be overripe on the outside and underripe on the inside. Under ripe cheese will probably not ripen once purchased.

Brie should be eaten within a few days and must be refrigerated. It should be brought to room temperature or warmed.

Ripe uncut Brie can be frozen for up to 6 months.

Brie is a perfect match for Champagne. A red Bordeaux or Burgundy is also an excellent choice. Chardonnay is another wine choice for this cheese…. because of its mild flavor, Brie goes well with most fruits, nuts, crackers or bread. When warmed, the center oozes a soft spreadable cheese. There are numerous recipes for heating Brie encased with dough to form a bread-like crust. It is also heated and served with fruit purees. See my Raspberry Brie Tarts recipe.

Sources: Wikipedia and
http://www.cheese-france.com/cheese/brie.htm and http://homecooking.about.com/od/cheeseinformation/a/brietips.htm .... see these sources for more information.

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