Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served.
Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and
that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
Coulommiers the Cheese Tastes Like an Excellent Brie. Is it Really a Brie ?
Behind the French Menu.
The CoulommiersPD0 cheese is also called the Petit Brie de
The Coulommiers Cheese.
Coulommiers - Coulommiers; the
cow’s milk cheese that tastes just like a Brie, though
officially it is not; and Coulommiers the town that gave this cheese its name.
The Coulommiers’ cheese is creamy, with at least 45% fat, and
made in farm made-versions with un-pasteurized milk and dairy versions with
pasteurized milk. The cheese, depending on the milk used, is aged for five to
eight weeks before being sold. This cheese is often called the Petit Brie de Coulommiers, thesmall brie
of Coulommiers, as the cheese’s
taste is often mistaken for the two more famous AOC Bries. The cheese is also
called the PetitBrie, a small Brie, since it is sold in 500
grams wooden boxes while the two AOC Bries only come in 2.70 kilo wheels.
The Coulommiers’ thin wooden box may also make you think of a large
Camembert; however, the cheese tastes like a Brie and the boxes are
all clearly marked where it is made.
A ripe Coulommiers cheese.
Photograph courtesy of zigazou76
Where did the Coulommiers cheese’s association with Brie begin? To begin with the town of Coulommiers is in the old French region called Brie Française. Coulommiers was then famous for its annual fair
and that included their many milk cheeses that were made
in and around the town for hundreds of years. In the modern départementof
Seine-et-Marne that now includes the old region of Brie Française are the two famous Brie making
towns; Meaux famous for its
Brie de Meaux
AOC, just 28 kms
away by road, and the town of Melunfamous for its Brie de Melun AOC is 50 kms away. The recipe for the two famous Bries
and the Coulommierscheese,
according to those who study these matters, is the same, however, when in 1980
the cheeses of Meaux and Melun
received their AOC grading the cheese makers of Coulommiers must have been sleeping on their watch.The PetitBrie of Coulommiers can now only be called Coulommiers though it still tastes like an excellent Brie.Despite this cheese’s lack of its AOC theCoulommiersfarmers and
dairies make a great deal of their excellent cheese. Coulommiers cheese my not be well known outside France; but
inside France it is in the top ten of cheeses sold in the French market. Every
supermarket and cheese shop sells this popular cheese.
Coulommiers in forms before beginning the aging process.
Photograph courtesy of Minor9th.
With the Coulommiers cheese lacking an AOC to copyright its
name many copies of the cheese are made in other areas. Now the cheese makers
of Coulommiershave requested
a European Union PDO label. With an European PDO “Protected Designation of Origin” label on the box you will know that the Coulommiers you are buying is a CoulommiersPDO and comes
from the town of the same name.
A Brie from Meauxand
Melun, is a 2.70 kilo (6lbs) wheel and that makes
taking a whole cheese home problematic. I have, many times, bought
cheese wedges, cut from a wheel of Brie de Meauxor
a Brie de Melunto take home. Unfortunately,
in that manner they need to be eaten within one or two days of arriving home; cut
cheeses never improve in the refrigerator and at home they quickly begin to
lose flavor. The other option, and one that I can recommend, is to buy
one a 500 gram smaller box of farm-made Coulommiers cheese; however,
the farm-made cheeses are made with unpasteurized cheese and so
check your customs regulations before taking one home. The same cheeses
are also made in dairies with pasteurized milk, so depending on your import
restrictions buy the pasteurized version. Like other cheeses made with
pasteurized and unpasteurized versions the difference is noticeable in a blind
tasting, but any good Brie or a Coulommiers is better than no Brie. Buy the Coulommiers that you are going to take home in cheese shop
that can vacuum pack it for travel and, ask for a cheese that will be ready in
two or five days. To buy cheese in France along with suggestions for taking
cheese home and keeping an imported cheese at home see my post: Buying Cheese
in France. Bringing French Cheese Home. A Cheese Lexicon for France.
Coulommiers, the town that gave its name to the cheese is
a pretty, small, floral and old French town. Even today it has less than 15,000
residents, but it has kept much of its Middle Ages architecture along with
the obligatory narrow streets. Above the town is a relatively well preserved
castle of the Knights Templar that was built in the 12th century; shades of the
DaVinci Code! Within the town the
office of the Ministry of Tourism provides walking routes, and there are
interesting bridges crossing the Grand Marin River that runs through the
town, as do three canals. When looking up Coulommiers on a map or on the web do not confuse it with
the town called Coulommiers-la-Tour, that town is over 130 kms away in the région of the Centre.
The town of Coulommiers and its Cathedral.
Photograph courtesy of Daniel Marinaud
those of you who enjoy the spirit of France's local culinary fetes consider visiting theFoire
Internationale aux Fromages et aux Vins de Coulommiers, The International Fair of Cheeses and Wines
fromCoulommiers. The dates of
this fair change every
year between March and April; the French Government Tourism Office
can advise you of the exact dates of the next Fair.
Even the Confrerie des Amis du Brie de Meaux, the brotherhood of the friends of the Brie de Meaux, visit the Coulommiers fair. Checking on the competition?
Photograph by courtesy of abac077
inclusive name of this fair, an obvious center of attraction is of course built around
the locally made Coulommiers cheese.
Not too many wines come from around Coulommiers,
but those that do are exhibited and sold along with other wines from
slightly farther away. The area also produces, and exhibits, their local
sheep’s and goat’s cheeses along with locally produced butter, honey and
beer. For immediate consumption are locally made breads, cakes, sausages,
pates, and many other goodies.
Part or the fair is for the local farmers who can meet, discuss and show their
lambs, beef cattle and cattle raised for milk; they also show off their horses
and working horses that are special breeds. Seeing a genuine farmers' meeting
and market is an interesting change in our normal routines so check the times
Two of the special Coulommiers breed of ponies that also brings the town visitors.
Photograph by courtesy of Mathieu Arnold
You can order, ahead of time, places for their shows celebratory dinner and
dance, though do expect a few speeches in French, and, of course, the cheese
plate towards the end that will probably be only their own Coulommierscheese.