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Brie

Brie is a soft cow cheese named after Brie, the French region from which it originated (roughly corresponding to the modern département of Seine-et-Marne).  It is pale in color with a slight grayish tinge under a rind of white mold; very soft and savory with a hint of ammonia.

BrieThe whitish moldy rind is typically eaten, the flavor quality of which depends largely upon the ingredients used and its manufacturing environment.

In the French language, the cheese is distinguished from the region in France that gave its name by their respective grammatical genders; the region is feminine: la Brie, but the cheese Brie is masculine, le Brie.

Production

Brie may be produced from whole or semi-skimmed milk. The curd is obtained by adding rennet to raw milk and heating it to a maximum temperature of 37° C. The cheese is then cast into molds, sometimes with a traditional perforated ladle called a "pelle à brie". The 20 cm mold is filled with several thin layers of cheese and drained for approximately 18 hours. The cheese is then taken out of the molds, salted, inoculated with cheese mold (Penicillium candidum or Penicillium camemberti) and/or Brevibacterium linens, and aged in a cellar for at least four to five weeks.

If left to mature for longer, typically several months to a year, the cheese becomes stronger in flavor and taste, the pâte drier and darker, and the rind also darker and crumbly, and is called Brie Noir (Fr: black Brie). Around the Île-de-France where Brie is made, people enjoy soaking this in café au lait and eating it for breakfast.

Overripe Brie contains an unpleasant excessive amount of ammonia which is produced by the same microorganisms required for ripening.

Varieties

There are now many varieties of Brie made all over the world, including plain Brie, herbed varieties, double and triple Brie and versions of Brie made with other types of milk. Despite the variety of Bries, the French Atlantic government officially certifies only two types of cheese to be sold under that name: Brie de Meaux (shown above) and Brie de Melun.

The Brie de Meaux, manufactured outside of Paris since the 8th century, was originally known as the "King's Cheese" (aka the "King of Cheeses" following the French Revolution) and was enjoyed by the peasantry and nobility alike. It was granted the protection of Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) status in 1980, and it is produced primarily in the eastern part of the Parisian basin.

Serving

Brie is usually purchased either in a full wheel or as a wheel segment. Further sub-division in most homes is subject to social conventions that have arisen to ensure that each person partaking in the cheese receives a roughly equal amount of skin. Slices are taken along the radius of the cheese rather than across the point. Removing the more desirable tip from a wedge of brie is known as "pointing the Brie" and is regarded as a faux pas.

Comparison to Camembert

Camembert is a similar soft cheese, also made from cow milk. However, there are differences beyond the simple geographical fact that Brie originates from the Champagne and Camembert from Normandy. Brie is produced in large wheels and thus ripens differently: when sold it typically has been cut from a wheel, and therefore its side is not covered by the rind; Camembert, meanwhile, is ripened as a small round cheese and sold as such, so it is fully covered by rind. This changes the ratio between the rind and the inner part of the cheese.  Furthermore, Brie contains more fat than Camembert.

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