Category Archives: Cheese Appreciation

The Eight Categories of French Cheese

In France, cheese is traditionally grouped into eight categories, known as ‘les huit familles de fromage’. They need a lot of categories because there are a lot of cheeses. It is said that there are so many different types of French cheese that even if you ate a different one each day, you still wouldn’t have tasted all of them after a year!

With all of these varieties, there is a lot you could learn about French cheese, but the most important thing is to pull up a chair and start tasting. Here is an introduction to the eight families to get you started.

1. Fresh Cheeses (Fromages Frais)

Fromage Frais

Fromage Frais

These cheeses are white and contain a lot of water. They are made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or sheep’s milk and are not aged. Rather than adding rennet, which is used to create some cheeses, the curd is formed by adding lactic starter to the milk.

These are not the types of French cheese you would see offered on a cheese platter at a meal. Rather they are eaten separately, sometimes in the same manner as a yogurt, and sometimes used in recipes. Continue reading

Understanding Ripeness Can Help You Pick Better Cheese

photo1Understanding how cheeses age is about as important as being aware of the difference between a perfectly ripened peach and one that is as hard as a softball. Knowing what’s right is most definitely to your gustatory advantage, no? With just a few tips and facts about how to tell a ripe cheese from one that’s not, you’ll be better equipped to pick out the perfect piece– all by yourself.

The most important fact to keep in mind is that cheese ripens from the outside in. Unless it’s a blue cheese, which is the only style that begins ripening from the inside, ripening action is initiated by molds or bacteria on the exterior rind, which then begin the process of breaking down the fats and proteins on the interior of the cheese.

The following guidelines refer to softer cheeses like bloomies and washed rinds. It’s for the way in which they age that these two styles of cheese are called “soft-ripened” cheeses, since they become softer and softer over time. Continue reading