My Favorite French Cheeses

Bonjour!

Having lived in France for close to three years now, it comes as no surprise that I’ve been exposed to a variety of different types of French cheeses. As former president Charles de Gaulle once famously said, “how can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”, this goes to show just how precious cheese is to the French. In fact, many cheeses are protected by law, under what’s called AoP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée), as means of retaining the traditional cheese-making process and whatnot.

Funny as it sounds, I used to hate cheese as a child– I didn’t like the smell or the texture. However, I slowly started to like it as I got older, first with melted cheese in quesadillas and sandwiches, then with actual hard-cuts. Upon first arriving in France, the only French cheeses I knew about were Brie and Roquefort, and since then I’ve expanded my palette to a few dozen more.

Many of my favorite French cheeses on this list are one of the most popular in the country, which makes them easy to access in supermarkets for tasting. True, I have other favorites that are more regional/obscure, but I don’t remember the names for them! That said, this list will be on those which you can get just about anywhere in France for a good price. Let’s get started!

Image result for comte cheese
The Flexitarian.

1. Comté. This particular cheese is the most highly-produced in France, made so in the eastern region of Franche-Comté. It’s a hard-cut cheese with a tough crust and a smooth, buttery center. The taste is very mild, which makes for a good French cheese to start out with. Fun fact: one doesn’t pronounce the “m” in Comté, but rather more so like “con-tay.”

Image result for camembert
Source: Wikipedia Commons.

2. Camembert. Made in the Normandy region of France, Camembert is also highly-popular. In contrast with Comté, it’s soft and moist, with a thin, paper-like exterior and a creamy interior. As a young cheese, the smell is mild, but it gets really strong as it ages. This makes for a great cheese to try, whether for adventurous or unadventurous tasters!

Image result for saint nectaire
Source: Fromages de France.

3. Saint Nectaire. I first discovered this cheese earlier this year, and I absolutely fell in love with it. Made in the Auvergne region, Saint Nectaire is what I would call a cross between Comté and Camembert: it has the mild, buttery taste of the former while having the soft interior of the latter. The crust is hard, but with a slight, crispy texture that pairs really well with the cheese itself.

Image result for chevre cheese
Source: Pinch of Cinnamon.

4. Chèvre. Chèvre is just the generic name for goat cheese, which is produced almost everywhere in France, most notably in the Loire Valley. Admittedly, it’s extremely thick, strong-tasting, and heavy, so it’s better to have it in small doses. It pairs very well with nuts and certain fruits, and it’s perfect for spreading on a crusty, toasted bread as an appetizer.

Image result for emmental cheese
Source: Co+op, stronger together.

5. Emmental. This is actually Swiss cheese, but it’s still commonly-sold in France. It’s known worldwide for its distinctive look, with holes throughout the hard block of cheese. I personally eat it shredded, then melted, with my dishes, as its mild, creamy taste pairs well with just about anything.

What’s your favorite type of French cheese? Let me know! Bonne dégustation. 🙂

— The Finicky Cynic

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