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Fougerus cheese is a cow's milk cheese which originates in Northern France. The cheese is traditionally made with unpasteurized milk, and it has a dense, creamy texture and flavor which causes it to closely resemble Brie. While not as popularized as Brie, fougerus cheese is quite a respectable cheese, and it can be served at room temperature with crusty breads, spicy white wines, and mild fruits. Specialty shops may carry fougerus, and the cheese can also be special ordered from importers.
The cheese is named for the single fern frond which traditionally decorates the rind. In French, fougére means “fern.” The fern is added just before the cheese is packaged, so it does not have an immense impact on flavor, but it does lend a note of style to the cheese when it is presented whole. Typically, the fern dries out during the packaging process, and it is usually edible, although the texture of the dried fern may clash with the soft cheese. Some producers also press other flowers or leaves into the rind before sale.
Like Brie, fougerus cheese has a soft, creamy interior with a slightly salty, chalky flavor. The thick velvety rind is fully edible and in fact quite flavorful. When served at room temperature, the cheese is soft and very spreadable. It can also be roasted to make it more runny, for people who enjoy a runny cheese spread. Some consumers feel that the flavor and texture of fougerus cheese is superior to Brie, and it can be fun to lead a comparison cheese tasting among people who want to try the various soft bloomy-rind cheeses of France.
The cheese may sometimes be seen labeled as an artisan farmhouse cheese, because it is made in the traditional style of a French dairy farm. Farmhouse cheese tends to be more simple in flavor, and briefly aged, because it is not intended to go to market. Like other farmhouse cheeses, fougerus cheese was initially made for personal use, until it captivated a member of the general public. Cheesemaker Robert Rouzaire is usually credited with introducing fougerus cheese to the general market in the 1960s as an artisan farmhouse cheese.
Like many artisan cheeses, fougerus cheese is traditionally made with raw milk, which yields a very distinctive flavor and texture. It also requires careful handling, as raw milk can become unsafe if it is poorly treated. In the United States, the cheese is made with pasteurized milk, since it is not aged sufficiently to be sold in raw milk form. The pasteurized cheese does suffer flavorwise, unfortunately.