The Most Extreme French Cheeses
In France, we have a special term: “fromage fort” which means “strong cheese”. What it is is a mix of cheese, white wine, and herbs. It is generally homemade so there is no precise recipe. If you are not French this cheesy preparation might look and smell a bit strange but I can assure you that it is worth it!
Where is strong cheese coming from?
Fromage Fort is a cheese tradition that comes from the South-Est of France, particularly in the Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions. It is still, to this day, a fixed familial tradition. In the beginning, there was a will to reassert the worth of cheap cheeses and home leftovers for economic purposes. Those cheeses were called “the poor’s meat”. Fromage Fort quickly became a popular dish that would be eaten mainly by workers like farmers or miners with a big slice of bread.
Here is a tour of all the different types of strong cheeses that exist around France, enjoy!
This traditional cheese preparation comes from the Mont Ventoux in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. It is made with a mix of goat and sheep milk. To make a Cachat, you need to have the curd cheese to turn sour and gradually eliminate the whey. Then you add on some cheese sprinkled with chopped parsley and a draft of Brandy. This mixture then turns into an unctuous creme with a strong taste that has the tendency of getting stronger as the years go by.
It used to be eaten for breakfast on a slice of bread or simply as a dish with baked potatoes. It is also eaten as a dessert during Christmas time in various Provençal regions.
2. Confit of Epoisse
Confit d’Epoisses is a cheese specialty from that comes from the French region of Bourgogne and is made using Epoisse cheese. This cheese itself is made with cow milk, it has a very strong smell and a very salty taste. Epoisse cheese was mainly eaten in the countryside. It has such a strong smell that it would give its taste to the bread. And when the taste was really too strong, uneatable, than the old cheese would be transformed into confit.
The recipe is simple: just grate the cheese and then put it to macerate with white wine (a Bourgogne preferably) and some Brandy called “Marc du Pays”. After a ripening period of approximately three weeks, the mixture starts to get creamy and its taste starts to soften.
3. Strong cheese from la Croix-Rousse
Strong cheese from la Croix-Rousse comes from the French city of Lyon and more precisely from the Croix-Rousse district. It is said that this cheese was given its name by regular customers in the “bouchons” (typical restaurants from Lyon located in this precise district.).
There are apparently two ways to prepare it. The first one is by putting blue and goat cheese together, mashing the mixture and adding some white wine, salt, pepper, and yeast. The other way to prepare this strong cheese is by making a leek broth in which you put some grated goat and cow cheese. The whole thing is mixed with yeat, white wine, and butter.
4. Casgiù merzu
I better warn you now before you put a large spoon of this cheese on your bread: there are worms in it!
Casgiù merzu is a cheese preparation that comes from Corsica. In comparison to other strong cheeses that are made in France, this mixture is not made with cheese leftovers but with Tomme cheese in which they let some pretty little worms make a home for themselves… Literally, Casgiù merzu means “rotten cheese”, nice isn’t it?
To make this fabulous recipe, you need some goat cheese that you let rotten in a cool place somewhere in your house, preferably with lots of flys around! Those little flying wonders than lay their eggs inside the cheese. When they become worms, then they feed themselves with the cheese. People who actually like this cheese say that it walks by itself…
This mixture is stored in a jar or a little pot. It has the taste of a very old Roquefort, another smelly cheese. Theoretically, Casgiù merzu can’t be transported (it transports itself haha…).
There are two ways to eat it (if you ever intend to do so). Either when the warms are still in it or when they are gone. To make them go away the mixture is put inside Brandy. You then eat it on a grilled slice of bread. This cheese is made any time of the year except during winter. You can easily find some in the south of Corsica even though, theoretically, it cannot be sold as it does not respect the Europeans health norms.