Saturday, April 12, 2014

Brie: That Wonderful French cheese.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated December 2019.

Brie, the cheese.

Brie is 45% fat, semi-soft, French cow’s milk cheese aged from six to ten weeks before sale and holds second place on the cheese world popularity stakes; camembert is number one. Brie and Camembert are both semi-soft cheese with similarities in their method of production and texture, but with clear differences in their tastes.
Candied pine nut and crusted brie salad.
A brie may be eaten just as soon as it's sold, but if the cheese is very firm when pressed in the center that indicates it is not ripe.  A perfectly ripe brie will feel soft when pressed in the center and when it is cut it will show a slightly bulging center. When brie begins to run, it is over-ripe.
A ripe wedge of Brie de Melun.
The origin of Brie's name.
Brie’s name comes from the historic French region called Brie Française, now part of the department of Seine-et-Marne in the Ile de France region next to Paris. That historic region gave its name to the cheese, which has its own history dating back to the Middle-Ages. The bread called Brié (note the accent over the é) is a bread from Normandy that has no connection to the cheese. For more about French bread click here.
Brie on French menus:

Brie Croustillant et Truffe Tuber Mélanosporum – A crisply baked brie served with the black Périgord truffle.

Entrecôte au Brie de Meaux – An rib-eye steak grilled with Brie de Melun.
Smoked salmon and brie.
Escargots de la Butte de Marolles en Brie et sa Crème d'Ail Petit Gris snails from the respected Butte de Marolles snail farm prepared with brie and a Cream of garlic sauce.

Rôti Porc Farci au Brie De Melun – Roast pork stuffed with Brie de Melun.
Terrine de Brie de Meaux aux Herbes Fraiches et aux Noix, Sorbet Vinaigrette – A pot of Brie de Meaux mixed with fresh herbs and walnuts served with a vinaigrette sorbet.
Truite Poêlée au Brie Parfumé à l’Estragon Trout fried with brie and flavored with tarragon.
Brie and brie type cheeses are also made in other parts of France, though only two bries, the Brie de Meaux, and the Brie de Melun carry the Pan-European  AOP (AOC) label for their unique origin and method of manufacture. Both bries are still made in the historic Brie Française region with unpasteurized milk; pasteurized milk versions are available for export.  Despite their lack of AOP labels, there are other French bries and brie-like cheeses that are really excellent. 
Buying a Brie.
If you are considering buying a brie in France, to take home, be aware that it will not continue to ripen once it has been opened.  Go to a fromagerie, a professional cheese shop, and ask for a brie that will be ready in a day or two, or week, no longer.  Have the cheese vacuum-wrapped and when you get home keep it in the refrigerator, not the freezer.  Take the cheese out of the refrigerator an hour before serving; any brie left over should be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator. The leftover brie should be served over the next few days as after that it will begin to dry out. For a lexicon on buying cheese in France and taking it home click here/
France’s two most famous Bries.
Brie de Meaux AOP
A whole Brie de Meaux weighs close to 3 kilos  (6.5 lbs), and its diameter is that of a large pizza,  approximately 36 cm (14 “), and  3 cm (1”) thick. If you are in France and a true brie lover, then visit the town for dinner as it is just 22 km (14 miles) from Euro-Disney and 55 km (34 miles) from Paris, 45 minutes by train. On the second Saturday in October join in the annual Fete de Brie de Meaux.
The annual Brie de Meaux celebration is held at the same time as the Autumn fair of Meaux; this celebration is organized by the Confrérie des Compagnons du Brie de Meaux, the brother, and sisterhood of the Companions of the Brie from Meaux.
Meaux is not only famous for its cheese but also for its old style mustard, entirely different to Dijon mustards. To check dates and see what else can be enjoyed in and around Meaux see the town’s French-language web site using Google translate or Bing translate at
Brie de Melun AOP
A whole Brie de Melun is a smaller cheese that the Brie de Meaux, but still weighs 1.7 kilos (3.75 lbs), and is four cms (1.6”) thick.   Meaux is just 18 km (11 miles)  from the Château de Fontainebleau and 42 km (26 miles) from Paris, 40 minutes by train. The town of Meaux celebrates their cheese on the first Sunday in October at their annual Fête du Brie de Melun organized by their confrérie, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Brie de Melun, the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Knights of the Brie from Melun.
Apart from tasting the cheese and other local products at their fete, many restaurants in the area will be offering brie centric menus. To check the dates and to see what else is in and around Melon use Google or Bing translate with the town’s French-language web site at

Tasting Bries.
I was able to taste the two famous bries together; both were perfectly ripened, and incredibly they were served with a glass of white port. That was a uniquely enjoyable experience in an exceptional Parisian restaurant and cheese store.  Both are great cheeses and with their slightly different tastes, and I can only confirm that they are both excellent; neither can take second place. By the way, a brie’s rind may be eaten, it has a different taste and texture to the cheese but eating a small amount of rind will add to the enjoyment.

One note about brie tasting; any brie that smells of ammonia is stale and far past its sell-by date. That smell means the cheese is really off, send it back, or if at home, throw it in the bin, I don’t think that even mice will eat stale a brie.

There are other bries and brie-like cheeses made in France with the most famous being the Coulommiers’ cheese.  Coulommiers is often called the Petit Brie de Coulommiers, the Small Brie of Coulommiers, as the cheese’s taste may easily be mistaken for one of the two famous AOP Bries. Coulommiers like the two more famous bries is made in the historical region of Brie Française
The Coulommiers cheese.
The Coulommiers brie-like cheese comes in a thin wooden box with a 500 gram (1.1 lb) cheese. The box may make you think of a Camembert; however, the cheese tastes like brie and its box is clearly marked.

Taste many wines, cheeses and the best bries of France.
To taste all the best Bries and many other kinds of cheese visit Coulommiers during its four-day Foire aux Fromages et Vins, their wine and cheese fair. The fair has nearly 400 exhibitors with wines, many wonderful cheeses including all the best brie and brie-like cheeses. The fair begins on the 2nd Friday in April through the following Monday. This very popular fair is visited by over 60,000 people annually.
The route to the Chateau de Fontainebleau,
and Melun,Euro-Disney, Meaux, and Coulommiers.
© Google Maps.
Coulommiers is just 29 km (18 miles) from Eurodisney and  64 km  (40 miles)  from Paris and  1 hour and 20 minutes by train. Coulommiers is also just 28 km, (18 miles) from Meaux and 50 km (31miles) from Melun.
Brie cheeses around the world.

Brie cheeses, like many other French cheeses, are copied all over the world. After you have tasted a perfectly ripened brie in France, only then you may then judge where the best bries come from.
Tasmanian Heritage Double Brie Cheese

Bries like many other originally French cheeses have lost the  copyrights to their name; however, imported real French Bries are available in most countries when made with pasteurized milk and a good cheese shop should offer a well-ripened brie,

Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2014, 2019

For information on the book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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