If there is a king among cheeses, then it can only be brie. The product has been proudly holding this title for over 200 years. Until that time, brie was the favorite food of kings. He was adored by Charlemagne, Philip II Augustus, Louis XVI, Queen Margot and the English monarch Henry IV.
Monarchs' favorite cheese
Brie is a French product from the group of soft blue cheeses. Like camembert, it is made from cow's milk, and some analogues are made from goat's or sheep's. But in any case, whole milk is used. This famous French cheese comes from the province of Brie. No one undertakes to say how and when the first head of this product appeared, but it is known for sure that already in the 8th century the French really appreciated this delicacy.
Despite the fact that today Brie is produced all over the world, the most "correct" product is considered to be made in France. Moreover, only two species received a special certificate from the French government: Brie de Meaux (brie de Mo) and Brie de Melun (brie de Melun). There is also a third variety - brie de Coulomier, but recently this product is more often spoken of as a separate kind of cheese.
Brie de Meaux is a delicate cheese with a creamy texture and creamy taste. From above it is covered with white mold, on which red spots may appear. Brie de Melun is less popular than de Meaux. Recognizable by its firm texture, pungent smell and saltier taste. Although there are some gastronomic differences between them, both types of cheese are made from the same product - whole milk heated to 37 degrees Celsius. But the method of thickening both varieties is slightly different. In the case of Brie de Meaux, rennet is used, under the influence of which the dairy product coagulates within half an hour. For Brie de Melun, lactic acid bacteria are taken, under the influence of which the folding process is delayed for 18 hours. Then the resulting mixture is placed in a mold, salted and left to grow old for 3-4 weeks. It is believed that Brie de Meaux is the "father" of all varieties of this cheese known today. They say that Charlemagne tried it in 774.
Tradition says that the king of the Franks was treated to a delicacy by the monks of the monastery of Rueil-en-Brie. The monarch liked the product so much that he wished that the delicacy was regularly delivered to him directly to the castle in Aachen. Appreciated this cheese and King Philip II August. And it is not known how the life of Louis XVI would have changed if not for brie. Fleeing from the revolutionaries, he lingered to taste the brie with red wine. At the meal he was caught.
The fame of this cheese went beyond France many centuries ago. King Henry IV of England tasted this delicacy for the first time during a dinner with his wife Marguerite de Valois (Queen Margot) in France at the castle of Meaux. Then he fell in love with brie forever. Rumor has it that from that evening the queen ordered that brie should always be served to her husband for dinner. And not just like that. Previously, the king preferred to dine with his favorite, Gabrielle d'Estre, but brie changed everything in the royal family.
If in earlier times, brie was the cheese of kings, then in the 19th century he himself was awarded the royal title. This happened after the first competition for the most delicious cheese was held in France. More than 60 varieties of the product participated in the competition, including those from England, Holland, Italy, and Switzerland. But the winner was, you guessed it, brie.
This type of cheese is made in the form of disks, which are 30-50 cm in diameter and 3-5 cm thick. Some manufacturers make the heads higher, but the thicker the brie ring, the worse it matures. Large heads are most often overripe at the edges, and unripe inside. The fact that the cheese has not yet ripened is indicated by the snow-white pulp of the product. A good cheese inside should be a delicate straw color with a grayish tint. A good brie has a firm, velvety white moldy rind, while the flesh is very tender, sweet-salty, and melts at room temperature.
The taste of the delicacy is delicate and pleasant, albeit with a slight smell of ammonia. The moldy crust has a sharper smell, but it is almost tasteless. Gourmets love brie for its rich flavor. In a mature product, mushroom and nutty notes are captured, which are almost impossible to find in young cheeses. By the way, the younger the brie, the more tender it has both taste and aroma. Ripe and thin heads usually taste sharp.
How king cheese is made
As already mentioned, the basis for brie is cow's milk. The original recipe uses whole, although in some countries analogues of the delicacy are made from pasteurized. For the production of one head of the product (with a classic diameter of 35 cm), 20 liters of milk heated to 37 degrees are required. Rennet is added to it. After curdling, lumps of cheese mass are traditionally transferred to marble molds. At this stage, the French use a special perforated scoop (in France they call it that - a brie scoop). After 18 hours, the cheese is taken out of the mold, well salted and treated with a special fungus Penicillium candidum. The fungus first creates a characteristic moldy crust on the product, and then “introduces” into the pulp, making it more tender. The ripening process of the delicacy takes from one to two months.
Nutritional characteristics and health benefits
A slice of French cheese provides the body with a large supply of energy. 100 g of the product contains more than 330 kcal, which is almost 16% of the daily requirement. But because of such a high energy value, the product should be consumed in small portions. The calorie content of brie is affected not so much by carbohydrates (there are only 0.5 g per 100 g), but by fats. Each 100-gram slice of the delicacy contains almost 30 g of fat, including 17 g of saturated fat. But along with them, brie also contains a lot of useful unsaturated fatty acids. In addition, this cheese is a source of complete protein and supplies the body with all the essential amino acids.
Interestingly, this type of cheese contains minimal portions of lactose, even though it belongs to the group of dairy products. Due to this, in small quantities it is suitable for persons prone to food reactions to lactose. By consuming brie, a person provides himself with several vitamins at once, including from group B, A and D, which have a beneficial effect on metabolic processes in the body, the immune system, health of bones, teeth, condition of connective tissue, skin and hair. Thanks to this set of vitamins, the product is useful for vision, the nervous system, prevents insomnia and eliminates chronic fatigue. Brie is also a source of important minerals. Each slice of cheese is not only an amazing taste, but also reserves of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, which are indispensable for bone tissue. Brie contains zinc necessary for enzymatic activity, the antioxidant substance selenium, as well as good reserves of copper and manganese.
Like other dairy products, brie is high in protein, which is essential for all cells in the body to form and grow properly. But at the same time, the delicacy also has its own unique advantages that cheese mold gives it. The beneficial bacteria living in it are very beneficial for the digestive organs. The special chemical composition of cheese mold also has a beneficial effect on the skin. In particular, this substance contributes to the production of melanin, which is not only responsible for skin color, but is also an important factor in protecting against cancer. Regular consumption of brie will also help protect against UV radiation and prevent sunburn. Other research findings indicate that French cheese is also very beneficial for teeth as it prevents cavities. The benefits of this product will undoubtedly be felt by people of age, since cheese mold prevents the risk of developing many cardio-related diseases.
Possible harm of cheese
If someone thinks that tasty and healthy brie cheese can be consumed in huge quantities, then they are deeply mistaken. This high-calorie and rather fatty product can be harmful for people with high cholesterol, diabetics, hypertension and obesity. The fat content of French cheese varies between 40-50%, and each gram of fat contains 1 mg of cholesterol. Sometimes the abuse of blue cheese can cause listeriosis or allergies. For this reason, nutritionists do not advise children and pregnant women to use it. It is also desirable to exclude blue cheese from the diet of people suffering from fungal diseases or allergies to penicillin. By the way, penicillin fungi contained in French cheese can sometimes cause dysbacteriosis and imbalance of microflora in the intestine.
Brie is listed as a food that can be dangerous if abused.
What to combine with and how to eat correctly
Of the entire family of French cheeses, brie is the most versatile. It is suitable for sweet and savory dishes, for a solemn gourmet meal and for a snack on the run.
Cooks appreciate this product for its rich flavor that will make any sauce perfect. This delicacy is combined with almost all food groups. It perfectly emphasizes the taste of meat and vegetables, it is good to combine with nuts (especially walnuts ) and berries (for example, strawberries or grapes ). From the group of fruits with brie, wine apples, melons, pears, figs are the best friends. Soft French cheeses serve as an exquisite appetizer with white or red wines (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Chateau Clarcke), and also well complement sparkling drinks, especially champagne.
The unusual texture and shape of brie raises many questions: “How to serve and eat brie? Is the moldy crust of cheese edible? Experts advise keeping the brie warm for a short time before serving so that its flesh melts a little. In this form, the brie bouquet is revealed to the full extent. There are two ways to eat cheese. If the head is still hard, then it is cut into triangle slices and eaten with a baguette, vegetables, other products or separately. The thawed delicacy is eaten with a spoon, choosing the pulp from the crust. As for the mold crust, it is not only possible, but it is necessary to eat it. Gourmets believe that it is in it that the main highlight of brie cheese is hidden. And do not be afraid of possible cheese mold poisoning - this is a special kind of regular fungus bred for this delicacy.
How to Choose and Store Properly
The smell of ammonia is almost always a sign of overripe brie. The old product can also be recognized by the brown sticky crust. With light pressure on the overripe product, a hole forms on it.
Cut brie should not be stored longer than 2-3 days. And to do this, of course, it is necessary in the refrigerator. There is an opinion that a whole head can be kept in the cold for up to six months, but cheese connoisseurs say that the “life” of a real brie lasts exactly 84 days. Further, its gastronomic characteristics lose all their charm.
Some culinary ideas
And from boiled chicken, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and pieces of French cheese, you can make a tasty and healthy salad, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.
French chefs often bake brie in puff pastry - fragrant cheese "buns" are obtained. Fans of original snacks can try to cook baked brie. To do this, cut the head of cheese in half, put your favorite vegetables and herbs between the two halves. Wrap the “stuffed” cheese in foil and put it in the oven or microwave for 1-3 minutes. An equally interesting appetizer is brie sandwiches. To do this, spread the baguette slices with melted cheese, and put slices of pears, apples or pre-fried slices of figs on top. As you already understood, brie cheese lends itself easily to various culinary experiments.
Today, cheese, which was once so loved by kings, is available to almost everyone. So why not treat yourself to a truly royal dinner with fine wine and brie cheese? Moreover, both the first and the second product, consumed in reasonable quantities, are not only tasty, but also healthy.