Brie

Brie is best described as soft and mildly tart. It pairs well with fruits and makes a great spread for crusted breads.

Brie is a soft, mold-ripened cheese that originates in the same-named area near Paris, France. The name is not protected, so there are variations produced in other countries. Slightly more tart than Camembert, it is a wonderful dessert or appetizer cheese with an edible, white “bloomy” rind.

Due to high moisture content, Brie must be used carefully in cooking. It is the perfect slicing cheese, however, and pairs well with fruit, bread, and crackers.

Varieties

The finest Brie will be labeled Brie de Meaux or Brie de Melun (not sold outside of France). A third, high-quality variety is referred to as “Coulommiers,” which is now classified as a separate cheese.

Unpasteurized Brie is typically aged for four weeks before it is sold. At eight weeks, it should be fully ripened, which disallows its exportation to the U.S. However, Brie is also available made from pasteurized milk (whole and skim).

French Bries have the least fat content. Other producing countries include North America, Germany, and Great Britain (Melbury Brie).

Flavored Bries may be injected or encrusted with herbs and spices.

Buying Tips

• Standard French Brie is cultured in wheels that range from 8½"-14" in diameter. Smaller wheels (5½"-8½") are referred to as Petit Brie. The wedges are “Pointe de Brie.”

• Wheels and wedges should be thin (1" height) to achieve proper aging.

• The outer edge of the rind may be lightly browned and the entire surface mottled.

• If possible, test packaged cheeses for ripeness. When young, they’re firm; riper products will be spongy.

• Some Bries, if made from raw-milk product, may raise issues with formation of the Listeria bacteria. The FDA states that anyone with immune deficiencies as well as the very old or young should avoid unpasteurized cheese.

Storage Tips

Once Brie is fully-ripened, its shelf life is short—use within a few days. Many cheese aficionados appreciate the taste and smell of ammonia, which indicates “extreme” ripening; however, others think this characteristic puts the cheese well past its prime.

A wheel can be frozen for about six months if tightly wrapped. Once sliced, however, it should be consumed.

Usage Tips

• Always serve Brie at room temperature. Allow 30 minutes to “rest” before serving.

• Removing the rind is a preferred for some presentations. It is easier when the wedge is cold. Otherwise, scoop out the

by BigOven editorial team
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