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Bringing cheese back from Paris - one disappointment with vacuum packing

  • RandyB Dec 23, 2011 11:06 AM

I've made many posts of the years about the ease of bringing back cheese from France. I did it again last week.

Until a few years ago, I often did not bother with vacuum packing. Then my favorite fromager (Alléosse) got their own machine. On the theory that it was better for traveling, plus the myth that Customs might someday care, I started having it vacuum packed.

This was the latest I've flown from Paris. Some of my regular cheeses were not available, including the Cabri Ariégois. That's the chèvre that looks like a Mont d'Or. Instead, I brought back two whole (little) Petit Fiancé des Pyrénées. If you know this cheese, or look at a photo, it's like a small reblochon with some nice, airy holes in it. See http://www.lefromage.fr/fr/component/...
But after vacuum packing, they lost all the holes and about 20% of the thickness.

Texture is less creamy but taste is the same. Oh, well.

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  1. Just got back with two different camemberts and one epoisses (de Gaugry) from Bathelemey. Have yet to open anything yet, but when I do I will report.

    What do you mean "by latest I've flown from Paris"? Do you mean the latest in the claendar year and therefore the closest to winter??

    Since all my cheeses are solid I don't think that the temperature or the packing should affect their texture. At least, as I recall, that has not been a problem in the past.

    4 Replies
    1. re: VivreManger

      VivreManger, you are correct. The latest in the calendar year. My usual fall/winter trip to Paris ends around Dec. 10-15. I can find two of my favorite "bring home" cheeses still available. In addition to the Cabri, I like the Abbaye des Citeaux.

      Offerl, I try to bring back things that are unusual and unavailable in the US. Young, raw milk cheeses all fall in this category. Mont d'Or or Camembert would be great examples. They would have to be made from pasteurized milk to be imported. The wood cases will protect them from the vacuum pack, too. I don't want to overdo that point. My reblochon came back fine.

      Varieties of couverture chocolate for pastries that aren't sold in the US are another category. The choices at G. Detou, for example, are many times more varied than at, say, Chocosphere.com in the US.

      You might look for several long threads about what to bring back. There are lots of great ideas, far beyond what I could suggest or even think of.

      Monchique, I was thinking of vacuum packing baguettes, to get matzohs with a wonderful French bread taste.

      1. re: VivreManger

        Have now tried 2 out of 3. The third was a present for a French expatriate, originally from Normandy. She got one of the two camamberts.

        Texture was consistent with the range of un-vacuumed packed cheese I have eatened. Taste too is consistent. However the two I have tried have been mild disappointments. I think the problem is the cheese, particularly the season, and not its packing.

        Both epoisses and camambert vary with the season. I like these cheeses strong and runny. Although I left them out for several hours both cheeses are much more solid than I prefer. Winter cheeses, whatever the storage temperature, don't have that flowing quality.

        1. re: VivreManger

          In no way is this a recommendation, since I know that it is not the way to shop for and care for cheese...we bring home young epoisses and let them age in the refrigerator for up to a month or so until we have occasion to eat them. Opened and brought to room temperature for several hours, they are consistently full flavored and runny, perfect when first opened and any remaining best finished within a day or so. However, YMMV.

          1. re: mangeur

            Sounds like a recommendation to me, mangeur. A good one. I also bring back more cheese than I and friends can possibly eat at the exact time we supposedly should. I'd say 90% of exquisite is still wonderful.

            I do ask my fromager for the less ripe samples when there's a choice, to have a little extra leeway. This is particularly true with the softer, smellier cheeses.

      2. Such a shame, especially since all the taste is in the holes.
        Just kidding. Merry Christmas!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Ptipois

          Would vacuum packing turn an Emmental into a Gruyere buy changing the size of the holes?
          Anybody experimented yet :o)
          Happy Xmas to all Chowhounds around the world!

        2. Thanks for the info Randy, i never brought cheese vacuum packed and the more i read about it here on the board, it seems less attractive, maybe better only with the hard cheeses.
          I marked some of the cheese names you mentioned and i'm not familiar with, to try in my next visit (and thanks for the nice link..), if there are other interesting produces you found during your trip or bring from Paris in general, will be glad to know and maybe check while i'm there.. Thx !

          1. as much as anything, the vacuum packing controls the aroma....the voice of experience says that the aroma of good chevre is damned near impossible to remove from your clothing, and takes about a week of sitting in the Florida sunshine to bake that aroma out of a suitcase. The suitcase had gone astray and was delivered the day after we arrived...the cheese was shot, and the aroma was hideous..

            Pity about the Petit Fiance.

            1. Tonight we had a mont d'or brought back Dec 6. A lait cru, if that is the correct term, that was vacuum packed and was delicious. Also a beaufort and a munster. It was a great Christmas treat and a perfect taste of Paris.

              1. Have had five of the petit Fiance, never saw holes in mine. Regardless should not affect taste or texture. Going tomorrow to Virginie for more.

                1. Today the Petit Fiance had holes, who knew ?Also sorry, but cabriolet or Le Cabri Arriege was there. l bought one, l will think of you when it is consumed. l do love that store. Always have a bunch of stuff l have never heard of.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    I've attached a photo of the Fiancé after it was brought back in vacuum pack. You can see some of the holes did survive, althought they are sort of flattened.

                    Turns out Ptipois was correct about the holes. I borrowed a micropipette from a chemist friend. We used it to extract the contents of a couple of holes and found most of the flavor actually was in the holes. Good thing I still had a few holes left.

                    As for you finding the Cabri, congrats. I won't admit I'm jealous. I'll just say: "When I'm not with the cheese I love, I love the [Mont d'Or] I'm with."