Brie: Creamy, Unpasteurized, Illegal




Although easily the most talked-about cheese in the United States, real Brie, unpasteurized, creamy, and oozing, does not exist in the land of the Puritans. This raw cow’s milk beauty only gets as far as a contraband suitcase passing through American customs can carry it.

In 2004, the United States government passed a law stating that any cheese aged under 60 days imported to or sold in this country must be made with pasteurized milk. More about this law another day. Suffice it to say that Brie, who in its natural state is unpasteurized and aged under five weeks, rarely makes it into our borders and is never sold in our cheese markets unless it has been passed under the counter in a loving, black-market gesture.

So what is that soft stuff bearing the Brie label? For the most part, an impostor, often delicious, but an impostor nonetheless. 



According to the AOC regional appellation laws of France, Brie also has to come from the region formally named Brie, now called Seine-et-Marne. Anything not from this region is not technically Brie. It is rather a cheese, made in a bloomy-rind, soft-ripened style, like the big “B.” But it will never be Brie, no matter how often the package claims the title.

Furthermore, claim cheese purists while shrugging their shoulders in a nonchalant French fashion, even the cheeses that the French government allow to exit France with a “B” stamp are not real Brie. Their milk has been pasteurized and the complexity, the texture, the specialness, well, it’s all gone. It’s just something that the citizens of France make, ship, sell than have nothing else to do with themselves. They prefer the raw, oozing variety.


So what can we do to taste real Brie?

1. Illegal, naughty cheese importing things

2. Eat in France

3. Wait until it is no longer illegal. Like thirty years to never.


In the meantime, I’ve found myself charmed by the mushroomy Brie de Meaux imported from France- the one that spreads on one’s plate even though it’s not the real deal. It, and more local versions of the bloomy-rind made by American cheese makers taste almost as good melted over toast topped with scrambled eggs and flank steak as the big “B” itself.


Next post: La Tur, the wonder 3-milk cheese


What do you do with your brie?

8 thoughts on “Brie: Creamy, Unpasteurized, Illegal

  1. paul redman

    one of my favorite applications was a panini on the menu at a restaurant called Trios Grille and Wine Bar in Boulder, CO, a place now long gone that was my first cooking job at a truly “fancy” restaurant. House-baked panini rolls, fresh turkey breast that was sliced raw into scallopini, seasoned with salt and pepper, and grilled. As the turkey breast was almost done you lay a couple thick slices of brie over the top. When it was hot and melty you put it on the roll and I think put some baby greens or arugula on it. There might have also been a squirt or two of basil aioli, though my memory is very foggy on this! Anyway, it was amazing to bite into the warm ooziness of the cheese with the grilled turkey.

  2. Sasha Verhage

    Great blog and first couple posts…

    The French tend to be sticklers about labeling and preserving their “brand names” (like Champagne). How do producers “get away” with labeling things that are not “truly” Brie for the US market?

  3. Jill

    I prefer the Brie de Nangis, but I’m a sucker for the triple-cremes and it’s much more like a triple-creme than a traditional Brie. Good stuff, though!

  4. It's Not You It's Brie

    Paul- that’s one awesome sandwich. Brie and basil aoili? Good lord.
    Steve- but can you spell out the letters of gamay with gamay?
    Sasha- thank you! producers can get away with naming the cheese Brie b/c it’s not AOC. why wineries can’t do this but cheesemakers can, i don’t know.
    Jill- i’ve heard people say how delicious the Nangis is, but people keep serving it to me under ripe. where do you buy it?

  5. Jill

    I bought it at Surdyk’s here in Minneapolis. I usually have good luck with cheeses from there. The folks handle them really well.

  6. penny dedel

    i never knew that about brie. i feel so educated now. i LOVE the brie spelling out brie photo, and i wish we had such fancy breakfast over here. you rock.

  7. Pingback: Meaux, le Fromage | Wanderlust

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