The origins of soft-ripened cheeses are often confused with that of Brie, a true royal gift, literally, since Charles d’Orléans would give it to the ladies of the court as a present! Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun are protected by the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC).
- Brie de Meaux - Brie de Melun:
- AOC since 1980.
- Soft-ripened cheeses.
- Brie de Meaux: 27 to 28 cm in diameter, 3.5 to 4 cm-thick, with a thin, soft, bloomy white rind.
- Brie de Melun: 36 to 37 cm in diameter, 3 to 3.5 cm-thick, with a thin rind covered in white mould and a faint reddish undertone.
- Traditionally, Brie is made from raw milk. Today, the majority of Brie is made from pasteurised milk.
- Production: 105,000 tonnes, including 8,300 tonnes of Brie de Meaux and 230 tonnes of Brie de Melun.
Brie is the main ingredient in several recipes that originate in the Brie region, such as gratin briard, a potato gratin made with melted Brie, cream, and milk. Brie, particularly when fresh, has been used for a long time in cooking and in pastry making. It is even believed that the word “brioche” comes from Brie.
Maria Leszczyńska insisted that it be used for baking her famous bouchées à la reine. Fruity Burgundy wines or Bordeaux wines like Saint-Émilion beautifully enhance Brie’s flavours.
Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun differ in production methods that are used: for Brie de Meaux, the curdling is completed in 30 minutes, thanks to the use of rennet; for Brie de Melun, the milk is curdled by lactic fermentation, which takes at least 18 hours. For Brie de Meaux, the curd is moulded with the help of a traditional perforated ladle called a “pelle à Brie”. After moulding and draining, both are salted and aged for four to six weeks. During the ageing process, they are regularly turned over.
No other region was better suited than Brie for making its cheeses popular amongst the Parisian masses and the kings of France. Located between Paris and Reims, Brie benefited from a long period where the two cities shared power. And even though the future of Europe was sealed at the Congress of Vienna in 1814 after Napoleon’s bitter campaigns, Metternich organised a tasting that baptised Brie the “prince (or king, depending) of cheeses and the first of desserts.”
In the 19th century, it became a very popular cheese: in 1886, more than twice as much Brie was sold at the Halles de Paris than Camembert.
The production area for Brie de Meaux covers all of Seine-et-Marne, and certain villages in the Aube, Loiret, Meuse, Yonne, Marne, and Haute-Marne departments. That of Brie de Melun is smaller as it only covers Seine-et-Marne and parts of the Aube and Yonne departments.
Pasteurised Brie is primarily produced in eastern France, in Normandy and in Pays de la Loire.