Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In Brie, You Will Find Cheese with Character

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In Brie, You Will Find Cheese with Character

Article excerpt

CHEESES FROM the Brie region of France have been renowned since the time of Charlemagne. Nowadays, of course, cheeses called Brie are produced in large factories on the perimeter of Paris as well as in factories around the world. These cheeses made with pasteurized milk last longer, but have much weakened flavor. Happily, the true cheese from Brie, made from the unpasteurized milk of local herds of cattle, is still produced in the farms and small factories of Brie.

On a recent trip to Brie, I visited cheesemakers and was amazed to learn that all the regional cheeses begin with cow's milk rennet and the same bacterial culture. What gives the different cheeses their personality and flavor is the amount of cream in the milk, the size and shape of the formed cheese and the length of time it ripens.

At Societe Rozaire, a small factory in the village of Fontenay-Tresigny, cheese is still made according to local tradition, although some of the production is streamlined in order to accommodate the large quantity produced.

The basic difference between farm-produced Bries and those made by "artisanale" production in a small facility is the milk. Farmers make cheese from their own cows' milk and the difference in flavor and texture, however subtle to the uninitiated, is there.lmts Societe Rozaire contracts with local dairymen whose milk is all mixed together. Think of the difference between blended and single malt Scotch whiskeys and you'll get the picture.

At Rozaire, unpasteurized milk, not more than 18 hours old, arrives at the factory. First, a "cocktail" of bacterial culture is added to start the lactic fermentation. After several hours, the milk is heated and rennet, an enzyme found in cows' bellies, is added to curdle the milk. The smaller Brie de Meaux is allowed only two hours' coagulation time. Brie de Melun is made with half the amount of rennet, but the coagulation time is 18 hours. It is, as you would guess, a cheese with more personality and flavor. It's the Brie eater's Brie.

Once the milk is curdled, the curds are formed into molds.cwf After about six hours, the cheeses are sufficiently drained of whey. They are unmolded, salted on both sides, sprayed with a mist of penicillium candidum and sent to a dry cellar.

After the penicillin flowers and covers the cheese with the familiar white fuzz, they are moved to a more humid ripening cellar. Brie de Meaux stays from five to eight weeks, Brie de Melun for nine to 10 weeks. We browse through the "cave," looking at the cheeses. Each one is a bit different. I think of them as groups of French children in their school uniforms, being promenaded in the Luxembourg gardens, all of them alike in appearance, yet with individual characteristics.

The cellar master, or "caviste," a sort of class monitor, turns the cheeses twice a week and surveys the ripening.lowb

A ripe, well-cellared Brie has a rind whose white fuzz is lined with pale yellow ridges, probably has a few stains of purple mold growing on it. …

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