According to most cheese experts, there are roughly 1000 types of cheese, classified by type of milk, moisture, mold content, methods of processing, and added flavorings.
But as The Daily Meal’s Editor Haley Willard points out, since many types of cheeses are not available in the United States, you would have to have the good fortune of traveling the globe to taste some of the best cheeses of the world.
Haley spoke with Liz Thorpe, cheese expert and author of The Cheese Chronicles.
Thorpe explains there are generally two categories under which banned cheeses fall: those that are made from raw unpasteurized milk and matured for less than 60 days and those that are recalled or whose import is forbidden by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for health reasons.
France is notorious for producing less aged, raw milk cheeses characterized as soft, creamy, and spreadable. But unless an unpasteurized cheese has been aged for at least 60 days, the FDA classifies it as unsafe for consumption because of potentially harmful pathogens.
Australia and New Zealand have similar restrictions, and in Scotland, raw milk is totally banned. Thus, Haley notes many cheese makers produce what Thorpe calls “imitation cheeses” with the same names as the original unpasteurized versions, made with pasteurized milk to comply with U.S. standards.
For example, Brie de Meaux, traditionally produced for the French is pasteurized before being exported to America.
A cheese temporarily banned by the FDA is Mimolette, a brightly colored orange cheese that traditionally comes from Lille, an industrial city in northern France near the Belgian border.
Because mites are introduced to ripened the cheese, the FDA claims the tiny organisms could cause allergic reactions and halted the sale.
Some great cheeses that can be found in the U.S. in their pasteurized forms:
Vacherin Mont d’Or
A superbly creamy cheese made in both Switzerland and France from early fall to late spring
Camembert de Normandie
A smooth and runny cheese originally produced by Marie Harel in the France’s Normandy region in 1791
Selles sur Cher
A soft, slightly salty goat cheese, covered in vegetable ash, made in the French regions of Cher, Indre, and Loir-et-Cher.
Cheeses You Can’t Find in America, courtesy of The Daily Meal:
Vacherin Mont d’ Or
The annual appearance of Vacherin Mont d’ Or each fall is a matter for celebration in Switzerland and France. Soft and spreadable, with an almost liquid consistency (it is typically served with a spoon), this pale yellow cheese tastes slightly acidic and is more or less the consistency of fondue.
It has been produced for about 200 years. Swiss Vacherin is made with pasteurized milk, so is sometimes imported into the U.S. The French equivalent is only unpasteurized, however, so that’s one that we have to forego in this country.
Brie de Meaux
Named after the town of Meaux in France, Brie de Meaux is produced in the historical Brie region — which is more or less the modern-day Seine-et-Marne — but may be matured not only there but also in Loiret, Aube, Marne, Haut-Marne, Meuse, and Yonne.
A soft and creamy, straw-colored, unpasteurized cheese, traditional Brie de Meaux has a rich, milky flavor underlined by sweet and buttery flavors of mushrooms and almonds; it goes well with Champagne or with red Bordeaux or Burgundy.
Brie de Meaux has a notable history: There is evidence that the cheese was enjoyed by the Emperor Charlemagne in the 774 A.D. It is also said that Louis XVI’s last wish was to taste the cheese. And in 1814, the European Tournament at Congress of Vienna named Brie de Meaux “Le Roi des Fromages,” or “The King of Cheeses” for its superb flavor and texture. The original version, never pasteurized, is simply not welcome in the U.S.
Camembert de Normandie
Originally made from unpasteurized milk by Marie Harel in Normandy, in 1791, Camembert de Normandie is bland, hard, and crumbly when fresh, but as it matures, it becomes smooth and runny with a white, bloomy, rind that is meant to be eaten with the cheese.
The pale yellow cheese has a milky and sweet flavor when fresh, and after maturing, becomes strong, fruity, and buttery. It’s traditionally paired with Normandy cider. Perhaps even more than Brie, it seems to suffer from pasteurization — though the pasteurized version is the only one sold legally in America.
Selles sur Cher
Made for the first time in the 19th century, this cheese is named after its birthplace, the commune of Selles-sur-Cher in the Loir-et-Cher, in Sologne in Central France. Selles sur Cher is a soft, slightly salty goat cheese that is dusted with vegetable ash and often develops a white, gray, or black mold on its rind.
The rind, which has a pungent flavor, is often eaten with the cheese. Selles sur Cher is now made within the regions of Cher, Indre, and Loir-et-Cher. Pasteurized versions are rarely seen in the U.S., and, in any case, aren’t the same as the real thing.
An orange-colored, hard cheese similar to Edam, made from pasteurized milk and ripened with exposure to cheese mites (dust-like, microscopic mites that inhabit the rind), Mimolette has a fruity smell and a mild, salty, nutty flavor.
The cheese is produced in Lille, in northeastern France, and is sometimes known as Boule de Lille. Its importation was recently banned in the United States due to the possible health threat from those mites, pending further study.