French Cheese for Bastille Day
France has a long history and culture of cheese making and consumption. The dairy tradition in France dates back to when animals were first domesticated thousands of years ago. This long and proud history has resulted in cheese today of the highest quality, variety and taste.
From the humid and green pastures of Normandy, to the dry and arid plains in the South of France, each region can claim its own special dairy traditions and wonderful cheeses. Because of the distinct differences in the regions in France, many of the nation’s cheeses are territorial.
The French word ”terroir” refers to the expression of soil, topography and climate in a wine. Although this is an expression unique to wine, it does also reflect the principal of a territorial cheese in that a cheese can taste, look and smell the way it does due to the unique conditions in the area where it was made. For this reason, many French cheeses have their area of origin in their name.
At Paxton & Whitfield, our buying team work closely with the French cheesemakers to source the best examples of each cheese. Our customers receive the French cheeses they know and expect - and of a quality that is not widely available.
Here are some of our favourite of the most famous soft, French cheeses for the perfect oozy Bastille Day cheese feast:
Camembert de Normandie
Paxton & Whitfield's Camembert de Normandie PDO is made on the Cotentin coast halfway between the sea and the rich meadows of Normandy.
Camembert was created in 1791 in Normandy. Some sources claim it was invented by Marie Harel who was a farming woman in Camembert. Orne helped a fugitive priest who was escaping the "Terror". In return for refuge, he taught her to make cheese that could form a white rind.
Coulommiers is made in the Ile de France region just South East of Paris, in the heart of Brie country. It is, without doubt, as old as Brie and it is likely that it is even older, although there is no written evidence to support this. It takes its name from the locality of Seine-et-Marne where the cheese was sold at the market.
Brie de Meaux
Brie de Meaux has been well-known since the Middle Ages and has a very distinguished past in which it has been appreciated by writers and royalty alike. Over the centuries, the cheese has been widely imitated by both farmers in neighbouring regions and factories – neither of which lived up to the standards of the original. For this reason, in 1980, Brie de Meaux was given a status of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) to preserve the original region and traditional methods of production.
The texture should be even and lightly creamy, supple and smooth without being runny. It should have a pronounced and appealing fruity flavour with a suggestion of nuts and an earthy perfume.
Triple cream cheeses muct have a fat content of at least 75%, with Brillat Savarin this is achieved by adding rich, luscious cream to whole milk before the cheesemaking process starts. It ripens very quickly and therefore has an affinage of between only 1 and 2 weeks, which takes place in a dry cellar.
Popular this month is our Brillat Savarin Affine Aux Truffe - A special version of a well-known French triple cream cow’s milk cheese, which is filled with summer truffle.
Selles Sur Cher
Selles sur Cher is named after the region where it was first commercialised - the Loir-et-Cher. The area of production of the cheese now comprises of a group of regions south of the Loire River where the climate is mild. These are: Sologne, Touraine and Champagne Berrichone. These areas are renowned for their sandy terrain and clay, which when mixed with the mild climate, gives the hay particular characteristics which flavour the milk of the goats that consume it, and therefore the cheese. The interior of the Selles sur Cher is fine textured, succulent and velvety. It has an aroma of walnuts and the flavour is also nutty but with a hint of lemon and salt followed by a mellow sweetness.
Not sure which to try first? We've put together a French Cheese Board collection with four French classics perfect for a Bastille Day celebration.