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?