The ladder of taste is a matter of taste
French cheeses and four of the five senses
Gastronomic pleasure comes from the joy of discovering a diversity of tastes: the thousands of cheeses produced in France are all a gourmet needs to stay happy.
When it comes to enjoying cheese, taste is the king of the senses, but don’t forget the others.
The sense of smell is the first to be affected by the presence of cheese, in particular when you’re talking about washed-rind cheeses. But in this context you should also think about the gentle nutty notes of a young Comté, the herbal aromas of a Cantal or the subtly mushroomy perfume of a Camembert or a Coulommiers.
The sense of sight is stimulated by the gentle sheen of a slice of Beaufort d’Alpage, the bright whiteness of a well-made, runny Camembert or the contrast of green and ivory that plays across a piece of Roquefort… Such visual pleasures lead, inevitably, to gourmet delights.
The sense of touch comes from discovering a variety of textures and consistencies. Unctuousness, creaminess or springy ripeness or, in contrast, hardness, crumbliness and density – all of these are part of the enjoyment of the world of cheeses. Sight and touch are sometimes almost inextricably linked – jus tthink of the ash-sprinkled surface of a goat’s cheese from the Loire or the velvety softness of a moulded-rind cheese.
There’s a French cheese for every occasion
There’s absolutely no reason that quality, diversity and know-how shouldn’t go hand in hand with conviviality. There’s a French cheese for all occasions and all tastes.
Cheese is good for you!
Cheese has a number of valuable nutritional benefits:
- Proteins to build and maintain muscles.
- Calcium to build and maintain bones (cheese has very high concentrations of calcium).
- Trace elements that are vital for sporting,intellectual and physical activities.
- The B-complex vitamins, all of which are vitalfor the healthy functioning of your body.
- Vitamin D, which helps build healthy bones.
Diversity and quality is a given
There are more than 1,000 different kinds of cheeses made in France. It’s a dead cert that there’s at least one you’ll love! They can all be classified into one of eight different categories:
- Fresh cheeses
- Soft, bloomy-rind cheeses
- Soft, washed-rind cheeses
- Blue cheeses
- Pressed, cooked hard cheeses
- Pressed, uncooked hard cheeses
- Goat’s cheeses
- Cheeses for spreading
Protected designation of origin,the source of taste
Awarding a product protected designation of origin status (PDO), allows us to preserve our culinary and cultural heritage. It’s a guarantee both of origin and of typicity, a promise that the product has been produced according to a traditional recipe, with specific parameters, handed down from generation to generation.
In order to be recognised as a protected designation of origin product, a dairy product must:
- Come from a specific, defined regionof production
- Be produced according to certainspecified parameters
- Have a well-established history and tradition
- Have recognised PDO status, which isawarded by the European Union
What’s more… In 2008:
France produced 23 billion litres of milk1
Produced 1,902,967 tonnes1 of cheese
Exported 601,022 tonnes2 of cheese
1 Source: S.S.P enquête mensuelle laitière 2008.
2 Source: French customs 2008.
Eating cheese is always a simple, convivial pleasure. Nevertheless, there are several steps that should be followed in order to enjoy your cheese at its best.
If you want to get the most out of your cheeses in terms of textures and tastes, you have a part to play when it comes to storage. The ideal place to keep cheese is in a cellar where both temperature and humidity can be controlled. But rest easy – in the absence of a cellar, the fridge will do nicely.
A few hints on cheese storage
- Don’t place several different cheeses in the fridge in the same container. In doing so, you run the risk of encouraging the growth of moulds and ruining the flavours of each individual cheese.
- Wrap each cheese up in either the packaging it came in, some aluminium foil or some clingfilm. This will prevent your cheese from drying out, but also help to keep it safe from bacterial contamination by other raw products (such as vegetables) stored in the same place.
- Once each cheese has been individually wrapped, you can store them together in a Tupperware container.
- Only buy as much cheese as you’ll need over the course of a week and eat as soon as possible.
Cooking with cheese
When it comes to grating your cheese, there are a number of different kinds of grater on the market. Choose the one you find easiest to use and only grate cheese as and when you need it.
When making an omelette or a quiche, cut your cheese into small dice – it’s better grated cheese.
Don’t restrict yourself to the traditional cooking cheeses, such as Comté, Beaufort or Emmental; experiment, instead, with whatever kind of cheese you have to hand.
Tasting and eating
Cheeses presented on a platter as triangles or half circles should be cut on the bias along their shortest side; round cheeses (such as Camembert) or wedges (such as Fourme d’Ambert) should be cut into chunks; triangular wedges of blue cheese (such as Roquefort) should be sliced perpendicular to the top and parallel to the base of the cheese in order to ensure an even distribution of the blue veins. Don’t forget that a cheese platter should be garnished with a scattering of walnuts, almonds, raisins, fresh fruits, honeys or fruit pastes – they’ll turn a simple pleasure into a special occasion. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to bread. There are particular matches you should really try: raisin brioche with Roquefort, rye bread with a creamy Saint-Marcellin or an olive bread with little creamy goat’s cheeses or aged Banon.
Taste cheeses in strength order, from the mildest to the strongest, so that you can appreciate each on its own terms. Generally speaking, you should go from cow’s cheeses to goat’s cheeses and finish with sheep’s cheeses.
The golden rule of cheeseboards is that there are no rules. You can enjoy a selection of cheeses or focus on one special cheese, as long as that one cheese is big enough for everyone and is of top quality.