Brie, aka "The Queen of Cheeses" (1), is a type of cheese that was originally made hundreds of years ago in a town called Brie, using half-skimmed or whole unpasteurized cow milk. The town is in the region of Seine-et-Marne in France. Contrary to the Brie prepared in France, the exported Brie to the USA is matured and stabilized for longer shelf life and bacterial infection prevention.
Brie is prepared by adding a protein called Rennet, made in newborn grass-eating animals’ stomach, to the raw or pasteurized milk. The mixture is then heated to 37ºC (98.6ºF) for curd formation from the milk protein (casein); The 37 degree temperature is best for bacteria growth and enzyme activity. Rennet prevents the casein clusters from being separated through hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is the breakdown of a chemical compound in presence of water, which in this case -would prevent the casein from clumping together to form the curd. Multiple layers of the cheese are then placed in molds and stored for 18 hours to drain the remaining liquid called whey. After that time, the cheese is removed from the molds, and salt and fungus is added. The specific types of fungus, either Penicillium candidum or Penicillium camemberti, which accounts for the taste, texture, and the striped white surface, are added to the cheese. The cheese is aged for a minimum of four weeks in a special environment to prevent the growth of unwanted microbes. The cheese is then packed in round wooden boxes or wrapped as pie slices shaped for consumption.
The cheese ripens from outside to the inside, and the inside becomes softer and the odor stronger as time passes. This is due to the breakdown of the milk sugar lactose into milk acid lactic acid by the bacteria. As the acid is broken down into water and carbon dioxide, the cheese becomes less acidic. As the cheese becomes less acidic, the calcium in the milk, in the form of calcium phosphate becomes less soluble and moves to the surface of the cheese, making the cheese softer on the inside. The odor is due to the ammonia from the breakdown of the casein by enzymes produced by P. camemberti. Some of the enzymes are aspartate proteinase, metalloproteinase, acid carboxypeptidase and alkaline aminopeptidase. The flavor of the cheese comes from methanethiol, ammonia, as well as aldehydes, amines, and methyl ketones from lipolysis, the breakdown of milk fat.
Try pairing Brie with wines such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Beaujolais (2009).