Two of the most popular French cheeses are Brie and Reblochon. But what exactly sets these two cheeses apart?
A Brief History of Brie and Reblochon
Brie traces its origins to the province of Brie, located east of Paris. This soft, creamy cheese has been around since at least the 8th century. Legend has it that King Charlemagne was very fond of Brie.
Reblochon comes from the Haute-Savoie region in the French Alps. Its production is tied to an interesting bit of French history. In the Middle Ages, farmers were taxed based on the quantity of milk their cows produced. To minimize taxes, the farmers would only partially milk their cows when the tax collector came around. After he left, they would milk the cows again, producing milk that was extra rich and creamy. This "second milking" milk was used to produce Reblochon.
Production and Aging
Brie is made from whole or partially skimmed cow's milk. The curds are carefully ladled into molds and drained. As the wheels form, they develop a white, bloomy rind thanks to the growth of Penicillium candidum mold. Brie is then aged from 4-10 weeks based on the desired flavor profile.
Reblochon is also made from cow's milk, usually from the Abondance or Montbéliarde breeds native to the Alps. It too develops a white, bloomy rind during aging. But Reblochon also gets frequently washed during the 3-5 weeks of aging, which gives it a distinctive orange hue and pungent aroma.
Key Takeaway: Both Brie and Reblochon are soft, bloomy rind cheeses. But Reblochon ages for less time and gets washed frequently, giving it a stronger aroma.
Shape, Size and Appearance
There are some clear visual differences between Brie and Reblochon:
- Shape: Brie is shaped into flattened wheels, while Reblochon is molded into smaller, rounded disks.
- Size: Brie wheels are quite large, usually measuring around 7-8 inches across and 2 inches high. Reblochon is much smaller, around 4 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches high.
- Rind: Both have white, bloomy rinds. But Reblochon's rind often takes on an orange hue from the repeated washings during aging.
- Weight: A whole Brie wheel typically weighs around 2.2 pounds. Reblochon averages around 1 pound per wheel.
Brie is a much larger, flatter wheel while Reblochon is smaller and more rounded in shape.
When it comes to texture, Brie and Reblochon share some similarities but also have distinct differences:
- Softness - They're both soft, spreadable cheeses. But Brie is ultra creamy, while Reblochon is a bit firmer and dense.
- Rind - With both cheeses, the rind is meant to be eaten. Brie's rind is velvety and buttery. Reblochon's rind is sticky and somewhat chewy.
- Interior - Brie's interior is smooth and silky. Reblochon is also smooth but often has a bit more ooze.
- Meltability - Reblochon melts a bit more easily than Brie.
So while both deliver a soft, spreadable texture, Brie is more silky and velvety compared to Reblochon's dense, ooziness.
When it comes to flavor, Brie and Reblochon each have distinctive taste profiles:
- Brie - This cheese is mild, creamy and delicate with notes of butter, cream and mushrooms. Well-aged Brie can develop nuttier, earthier flavors.
- Reblochon - Due to its washed rind and shorter aging time, Reblochon has a much stronger aroma and flavor. It's robust and nutty with a tart, grassy kick. Hints of barnyard and onions come through.
Brie is milder and more approachable for novice cheese lovers. Reblochon packs a potent, complex punch for those who enjoy bold cheeses.
Given their different strengths, Brie and Reblochon lend themselves to some distinct culinary uses:
- Brie - With its creamy texture and mild flavor, Brie shines when served as is with bread or fruit. It also melts beautifully and can be baked into pastries like a quiche.
- Reblochon - The bold Reblochon stands up well in cooked dishes like fondue or tartiflette, a classic potato and bacon casserole. It's also great for panini sandwiches.
Brie and Reblochon really demonstrate the diversity of French cheeses. Brie's mildness and subtlety contrasts with the robust intensity of Reblochon. But cheese novices and experts alike can appreciate both of these delicious French treats!
Key Takeaway: Brie's delicacy makes it ideal for cheeseboards. Reblochon's assertive flavor can hold its own in cooked dishes.
How do I store Brie and Reblochon?
Like most soft cheeses, both Brie and Reblochon are best stored in the refrigerator tightly wrapped in wax or parchment paper. Allow the cheese to come to room temperature before serving for the best texture.
What wines pair well with these cheeses?
Brie pairs nicely with light, fruity wines like a Chardonnay or Rosé. Reblochon's bold flavor stands up to heartier wines like a Beaujolais or Pinot Noir.
Can I freeze Brie or Reblochon?
Freezing is not recommended for these soft cheeses. Their texture would suffer greatly after thawing. Enjoy them within a few weeks of purchasing for optimal freshness.
What milk is used to make these cheeses?
Both Brie and Reblochon are made from cow's milk. Reblochon is specifically made from the rich milk of Alpine breeds like Abondance or Montbéliarde.
Are Brie and Reblochon vegetarian cheeses?
Traditionally, animal rennet is used to coagulate the milk in both cheeses. But vegetarian versions are available that use non-animal rennet. Check labels if avoiding animal products.
Can I eat the rind on these cheeses?
Yes, the rind on Brie and Reblochon is completely edible. The rind contributes flavor and texture, so it should be enjoyed.
Are there any diet considerations for these cheeses?
Both cheeses are high in fat and sodium, as many soft cheeses are. Reblochon has slightly higher fat content. Those limiting fat or sodium should consume them in moderation.
While Brie and Reblochon share origins as soft French cow's milk cheeses, they offer very different tastes and textures.
Mild, buttery Brie shines when served raw.
Robust Reblochon packs flavor that stands up to cooking.