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FrenchCheese1There are hundreds of different regional cheese in France, although only a small proportion are imported into Britain. However, these include the best known varieties which have given France its reputation as one of the finest cheese-producing countries.

Camembert and Brie are perhaps the best known of all, but Roquefort, Pontl'Evêque, Port-Salut, various processed and cream cheese, such as Boursin, Petit Suisse and Crème de Gruyère

But Camembert, Brie and similar soft cheese in small quantise and est them without delay. This is necessary because soft cheese do not keep as well as hard varieties, unless they have been processed. They should be soft right through for a perfect flavour. If the cheese is a little under ripe, allow it to mature for two or three days. Camembert should come from Normandy, and Brie from the Île de France. Avoid any imitations from other places.

The blue cheese, such as Roquefort, taste salty because salt is added to them to slow down the growth of mould on the outside while the inside matures. Unlike most other cheeses, these salty cheeses remain good even when they are slightly over-ripe.

FrenchCheese2French Gruyère and similar cheeses, such as Comté, can be used in the same way as their famous Swiss counterparts, Gruyère and Emmenthal, to make fondues. In warm weather, store cheese in the fridge, covered with polythene or in plastic container. Take cheese out of the fridge some time before it is due to be eaten, Brie and Camembert need about one hour.

Banon - A pungent tasting cheese, originally made only from goats milk, Banon is now mixed with cows' milk or made exclusively from cows milk. If the label does not specify the milk, the cheese will be cows milk only. Banon is dipped in colourless fruit brandy, then in rosemary and winter savory leaves, or chestnut leaves which have been soaked in colourless fruit brandy. Traditionally, Banon is left to mature for a couple of months in stone jars.

Bleu d'Auvergne, Bleu de Salers - A blue cheese, less delicate than Roquefort, made from a mixture of goats, ewes and cows milk. This cheese is the same size and shape as Roquefort.

FrenchCheese5Bleu de Bresse - A soft, creamy, dark veined blue cheese with a rich taste, sold wrapped in foil and boxed. It is made from un-skimmed cows milk. When overripe, it goes salty and dry.

Bleu des Causses, Blue de I'Aveyron - A blue cheese, less piquant then Roquefort, made from cows milk.

Boulette d'Avesnes, Boulette de Cambrai - A spicy buttermilk cheese flavoured with herbs.

Boursin, Boursault - Two brands names for the same triple cream cheese, which is soft,thick and flavoured with either herbs, garlic or pepper.

FrenchCheese9Brie - A large, round, soft, pale yellow cheese, about 7.6 cm thick, with a slightly reddish edible crust and a delicate flavour. One of the world's great cheeses, Brie is made from cows milk, best cut from a whole cheese.

Brie fermier is made on the farm with modern methods and is considered the best. Brie laitier is factory made.

Brie is fully ripe when the cheese has a consistent texture. Press the surface and the cheese should bulge but not run. At its best from October to April.

FrenchCheese12Camembert - This world famous cheese from Normandy is round, soft, creamy, pale yellow in colour, with a soft crust. It has a much stronger taste then Brie, and is also made from cows milk. Sold whole in boxes or in individually wrapped portions. The ripeness test is the same as for Brie, do not allow Camembert to become over ripe otherwise it tastes bitter. At its best from October to June.

Cantal, Fourme de Salers - This is a hard, strong, pale yellow cheese which is made from cows milk. It is one of the largest of French cheeses, and comes from the Cantal and Auvergne regions of France. It has a flavour like Cheddar, best between November and May.

FrenchCheese14Carré de I'Est - A square, soft cheese, with a high fat content, it is similar to Camembert but milder in flavour.

Comté - A firm, yellowish cheese with holes. Good for cooking.

Coulommiers - A soft, yellowish cream cheese which has a white crust tinged with grey. This cheese has a stronger, less mellow taste than Brie, with a faint almond flavour. Best between November and March.

Demi-sel - A small, square, fresh cream cheese, weighing about 125 grams. It has very little salt and tastes almost like cream. Sold wrapped under various brand names. The best and creamiest Demi-sel comes from Normandy.

FrenchCheese16Epoisses - A soft, round cheese with an orange crust, made from curdled milk and sometimes flavoured with black pepper, cloves or fennel, then soaked in wine or colourless fruit brandy. Epoisses comes from Provence.

Fourme d'Ambert - A veined sharp blue cheese, shaped like a drum, crumbly in texture and slightly salty. This cheese is from Auvergne.

Fromage de Monsieur - An oval double cream cheese with a high fat content. It can be eaten when it is slightly under ripe. It is sometimes salty. Made in Normandy.

Gaperon, Gapron - A white buttermilk cheese, dry and piquant when ripe.

Gruyère - The true Gruyère is only made in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, but essentially the same cheese is made over the border in France. A firm, pale cheese with small holes and a crinkled, slightly greasy, golden-brown rind. Excellent as dessert cheese, and for cooking, especially fondues.

FrenchCheese17Crème de Gruyère - Processed Gruyère cheese, soft with a mild taste, sold in portions.

Langres - A semi-hard or creamy cheese, usually sold in slices.

Livarot - A soft, yellow cheese with a dark reddish-brown rind, made from skimmed milk. Strong flavour, more pungent than Camembert.

Maroilles - A square, semi-hard, slightly salted, yellow cheese with a reddish-brown rind, and a strong flavour and smell.

Mimolette - A round orange cheese with grey rind, similar to hard dry cheddar.

FrenchCheese18Műnster - A semi-soft, creamy textured and pungent cheese with reddish rind and strong flavour, Műnster, which comes from the Alsace region, is sometimes flavoured with cumin or aniseed. Best from November to April.

Petit Suisse - A very creamy unsalted cheese, made from whole milk and extra cream, it has a faintly sour flavour and is often eaten with sugar. It is always sold as little rolls individually wrapped.

Pont I'Evêque - A square, semi soft, pale yellow cheese with a crinkled yellow crust. Pont I'Evêque has a rich, Camembert like flavour.

Port Salut - A semi hard, yellow cheese with a reddish rind and a bland taste which gets stronger when its fully ripe.

Réblochon - A soft cheese, pale cream in colour with an orange to chestnut rind. It has a bland taste which turns bitter when its over ripe.

FrenchCheese19Roquefort - A crumbly blue cheese with a salty but piquant flavour. Roquefort is made from ewes milk curds sprinkled with breadcrumbs, specially treated with mould to make the characteristic green veins. The cheese is ripened in limestone caves.

Saingorlon - A sharp blue cheese, recently introduced, which is the French equivalent of the soft Italian Gorgonzola cheese.

Saint Marcellin - A small, round, crumbly cream cheese made from goats milk. Saint Marcellin has a mild taste with a touch of salt.

Saint Nectaire - A semi hard pale yellow cheese with a rind blended red, white and yellow and a bland but subtle flavour.

Saint Paulin - A semi hard, yellow cheese with a bland taste similar to Port-Salut.

Tome de Savoie - A semi hard yellow, strong flavoured cheese with a reddish rind.

Tome au Raisin - A white slightly chewy cheese, similar to Tome de Savoie, but covered with a mixture of dried black grape skins and pips.

Valençay or Levroux - A soft goat cheese, full flavoured and creamy, with a grey crust made by dusting the cheese with ashes. Best from May to December.

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