The Soft Cheese with a Bloomy Rind
Brie de Meaux is a soft French cheese with a bloomy rind produced in the historic region of Brie, currently known as the Seine-et-Marne department, in the region of Île-de-France, 50 km east of Paris. It was declared the “King of Cheeses’ at a culinary tournament in the Congress of Vienna in 1814.
Brie is one of over 40 French cheeses protected the by AOC label (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), which guarantees the quality of the cheese, where and how it’s made. It can only be produced by authorized producers, in France, in the designated region, under designated conditions and must have an AOC label, affixed to the exterior. All the cheeses, made outside France, labeled ‘Brie’ are not the true Brie.
Regulations for making Brie de Meaux
- The cheese must be made in specific areas with calf rennet and 6.6 gallons (25 litres) of unpasteurized milk, which should be heated to a maximum of 99°F (37°C) only once, then the rennet is added.
- The use of a special pelle à brie (perforated Brie shovel) to ladle the fragile, floppy curd into the molds, by hand.
- Each cheese must be dry-salted, by hand, inoculated with Penicillium candidum and aged a minimum of 4 weeks but usually 6-8 weeks, in a special cellar, at a specific temperature and humidity, in specific areas, by special affineurs.
What does Brie Look Like?
The cheese is a flattened, approximately, 5-pound wheel (2.5kg), 3-4 cm thick and about 40 cm in diameter. The bloomy rind is thin, slightly hard and edible, with a fine, velvety coating of white mold, as a result of inoculation with white molds, Penicillium candidum and Penicillium camembertii. (photo 1; Photo 2 ). It is often sold cut into wedges.
The aroma should be of mold, damp, leaves, and mushrooms, becoming more intense with age. (World cheese Book). The rind has a very slight, bitter taste. The interior is glossy, soft, smooth and creamy with a pale yellow to butter-yellow colour that oozes irresistibly. It has a characteristic rich taste like wild smoky mushrooms soup made out with beef consommé (World Cheese Book). When nearly half of the pale yellow pate is ripe and soft, with a chalky band of immature curd through the centre, it indicates Brie de Meaux is ready for consumption. If you prefer over-ripe Brie that is runny, and almost pungent, then buy the cheese near its “best by date”
When to Eat Brie
Please note that Brie should be eaten when it’s perfectly ripe, creamy and ﬂavorful, not runny or pungent. Overripe Brie has an ammoniac aroma and bitter ﬂavor; under-ripe Brie has a chalky interior and virtually no ﬂavor.
Brie is best eaten at room temperature, and forms a crucial part of any cheese course. It’s best accompanied with a glass of champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy or Côte-du-Rhône. Once sliced the white mold will grow down the cut surface. This indicates that the cheese is alive and well, and the mold grows to protect the soft interior from drying out.
It’s best stored in its original paper or wax paper. Do not use plastic wrap because it will prevent the cheese from breathing and trap the ammonia released during ripening and result in an unpleasant pungent taste.
In North America, you’ll only find the authentic Brie it at specialty cheese stores…if you’re lucky to find it at all. For export to the United States, France makes pasteurized brie.
North American made versions of Brie, tend to be bland in taste.
- Origin: region of Île-de-France, 50km east of Paris, France.
- Milk: unpasteurized cow’s milk.
- Age: minimum 4 weeks, but usually, 6-8 weeks
- Weight and shape: average weight of 2.8 kg (6.2Ib); round wheel, about 40cm in diameter and 3-4 cm high.
- Rind: Bloomy
- Type: soft, ripened.
- Texture: soft, smooth and creamy. The best are almost but not quite oozy.
- Flavour: buttery, sweet
- Fat content is generally around 45%
- Moisture content:
- Certification: AOC, 1980, for both Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun
- Harbutt, Juliet, 2009. The World Cheese Book, Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd.