Brie cheese is not only mouthwatering, but it has quite a history. How did Brie cheese come about in the first place? Well, according to the experts of cheese, producing Brie cheese started in the French province called, Brie (big surprise!) a town 60 miles from Paris!
The oldest recorded evidence that anyone could find of the existence of Brie Cheese was found in the chronicles of Charlemagne. At that time, the Emperor in power, had a taste of the now-famous cheese in the city of Brie around the year 774 BC. And here’s another fascinating tidbit about Brie cheese… Louis XVI’s last and dying wish was supposedly to have a final taste of Brie.
Brie Cheese is also known as Brie de Meaux and is considered one of the most popular of the 400+ cheeses from France. It’s popularity can be attributed to a competition that came about around 1814. Here’s what happened. During a Vienna Congress, an argument broke out among the participants, regarding which country made the best and finest cheese. (Can’t you just picture it? A bunch of squabbling men – all needing to be right?)
The end result was that a Frenchman by the name of Talleyrand, suggested a competition between the different countries and their national cheeses. Of course, he was convinced that France would win. And of course, they did! Brie de Meaux was the winner and became known as the King of Cheeses. It was an instant hit and became an overnight success that swept Europe. Since then, it has retained that distinction and we as a people still love it.
As a matter of fact, Brie Cheese from France won a gold medal from the Brie National Contest in both 2000 and 2001.
Why does Brie cheese taste so good? How do they make it? Brie is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and has an appealing combination of flavors including hazelnut, fruit and herbs. It takes approximately 6.6 gallons of milk to make one round of brie cheese!
The process of making Brie cheese consists of first, heating the milk to no more than 37 degrees C but only during the renneting stage. This keeps the cheese from cooking. After being put into a mold with a special, perforated shovel called pelle Brie, it is salted with a dry salt. The salting process is used to balance the sweetness that happens because of the high quality of milk used.
Maturation takes place in a cool cellar. The cheese develops a white mold around it and the creamy part turns to a light straw color. The whole process takes at least 4 weeks and sometimes more.
In France, there are only 5 or 6 real Brie de Meaux producers left. Apparently it’s an economically-challenged industry to get into. Brie has a very fragile curd that is easily broken and requires a special room built only for the use of making Brie and Triple Crme. It has to maintain just the right temperature or the maturation process will not work. This, in itself, makes Brie hard to make and evidently requires quite an investment. Therefore, farmers are not as inclined to invest their time and money on such a delicate, not always reliable process.
Serving Brie cheese properly consists of allowing it to come to room temperature first. It’s always good served with some kind of wine and here are some excellent suggestions to serve with any kind of Brie appetizer. A red Cte-du-Rhne, a red Bordeaux or Burgundy, and of course, it always goes well with a good quality Champagne.
In the United States, our pasteurization laws are very strict. As a result we don’t sell real Brie. US FDA regulations say that you can only make cheese with our pasteurized milk. Our Brie is not true Brie, but it’s as close as we can get to make it taste like the ever-famous Brie de Meaux.
If you were to put true French Brie next to our Brie made in the United States, the difference would be highly noticeable. Most likely, if you are a cheese lover and expert in the subtlies of cheesy flavors, you would get hooked on the French Brie and have to make yearly trips to France to feed your new craving!
There are many online companies where you can buy imported Brie cheese from France. So, in case you can’t make that yearly trip, just go online!