Brie is a soft cow’s milk cheese named after Brie, the French province in which it originated (roughly corresponding to the modern département of Seine-et-Marne). There are now many varieties of Brie made all over the world, including plain Brie, herbed varieties, and versions of Brie made with other types of milk.
Brie is perhaps the most well-known French cheese, and is popular throughout the world. Despite the variety of Bries, 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, manufactured outside of Paris since the 8th century, was originally known as the “King’s Cheese” (later, following the French Revolution, the “King of Cheeses”) and was enjoyed by the peasantry and nobility alike.
It was granted the protection of AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status in 1980, and is produced primarily in the western part of the Paris basin.
Brie may be produced from whole or semi-skimmed milk. The curd is obtained by adding rennet to raw milk and heating it to a maximum temperature of 37°C.
The cheese is then cast into molds, sometimes with a traditional perforated ladle called a “pelle à brie”. Generally, the bacteria used in this mold is penicillium candidum. The 20 cm mold is filled with several thin layers of cheese and drained for approximately 18 hours.
The cheese is then taken out of the molds, salted, innoculated with cheese mold and aged in a cellar for at least four weeks.
S.A.F.R Port Salut is a semi-soft pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Brittany with a distinctive orange crust and a mild flavor. The cheese is produced in disks approximately 23 cm (9 inches) in diameter, weighing approximately 2 kg (5 lb).
The cheese was originally invented by Trappist monks during the 19th century at the abbey of Notre Dame du Port du Salut in Entrammes.
The monks, many of whom had left France to escape persecution during the French revolution of 1789, learned cheese-making skills as a means of survival and brought those skills back with them upon their return in 1815.
The name of their society, “Société Anonyme des Fermiers Réunis” (S.A.F.R.) later became their registered trademark, and is still printed on wheels of Port Salut cheese distributed today.
In 1873, the head of the abbey came to an agreement with a Parisian cheese-seller granting exclusive rights of distribution, and the cheese soon became popular. The abbey sought trade protection, and eventually (in 1959), sold the rights to a major creamery. The cheese is now produced in a factory; the characteristic smooth crust the result of a plastic-coated wrapper.
Handmade Port-du-Salut cheese or “Entrammes” cheese is still produced by various monasteries throughout the French countryside, and differs subtly from its commercial cousin.
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