The savvy Francophile’s guide to fromage: hard French cheese

Hard cheese - circle - guide to fromageAlthough less common than the traditional, soft French cheeses, there are plenty of hard French cheeses that deserve our attention…

We associate France with soft cheese spread generously over baguettes – not necessarily hard cheese, grated or chewed. However, the French see things quite differently. While they enjoy soft French cheese as an integral part of their heritage, hard French cheese has crept into their diet. And we’re not planning on neglecting these cheeses either…

Find out everything there is to know about our favourite hard French cheeses here, and everything you need to enjoy them.

Cantal - French cheese - hard

This uncooked, pressed cheese is close in consistency to cheddar, as well as in flavour: crumbly with a mild, buttery flavour. Cheese Month Club explains that Cantal is one of Europe’s oldest cheeses, enjoyed by the Ancient Romans, who used their efficient transportation methods to export it from Northern France.

They also suggest enjoying Cantal with fruit, or shaved into sandwiches. We also love it crumbled over pasta, or, simple and effective, even just on a cracker…

Emmetal 2- French cheese - hard

The French love Emmental râpé (grated) as its thin texture makes it an excellent substitute for the Italian Parmesan. With a sharp, nutty taste this isn’t a creamy cheese, nor was it originally French – explains that Emmental was first produced in Switzerland before it was adopted by France.

Today, this traditional cheese is huge in France, frequently grated over pasta, used in grilled sandwiches and sauces, and also one of the cheeses used in a traditional cheese fondue.

Comte - French cheese - hard

Another cheese used in a traditional fondue, Comté is very similar to the Swiss Gruyere, and is a particular favourite of About France.

The taste of this cheese really depends on how old it is – it can be nutty, salty or fruity. Very versatile, Comté comes in many different varieties, but can always be enjoyed with either a dry white or light red wine.

Mimolette - French cheese - hard

Similar in taste and texture to Edam, Mimolette is orangey in colour, but has the unique distinction that microscopic mites are used in its production – they eat into the cheese, creating its craters.

But don’t let this put you off! Mimolette is a cheese with a rich nutty flavour, and an excellent one to add to your palette the next time you’re in France!

Beaufort - French cheese - hard

Another cheese that dates back to Roman times, Beaufort is rich and creamy, unlike many other hard French cheeses. This cheese displays herbal undertones – Cheese France even argues that when eating Beaufort, you can taste the grass and flowers that the cows grazed on…

Best enjoyed with smoked salmon, Beaufort also goes excellently in sauces (as it melts well), or is flavoursome enough to be enjoyed alone.

Bethmale - French cheese - hard

Produced in the Midi-Pyrénées, this cheese is light in colour and fairly mild and open-textured in taste. It’s great for those who don’t like their cheese strong, but don’t want to compromise on quality.

Cheese Notes gives a mouth-watering description of Bethmale, describing it as mild, buttery and nutty, with an aroma that is ‘pleasantly pungent and musty’. Definitely one to try!

laguiole-hard cheese-french cheese

With a somewhat cheddary aroma, and a complex flavor that is lightly mineral, floral, sharp and faintly sour on the palate, Laguiole makes a great table cheese and an excellent ingredient in the kitchen.

This makes it perfect for adventurous cheese lovers who want to sample something a little bit different!

With a thick, dry rind, this cheese looks as rustic as it gets, so you’ll feel fabulously French enjoying it with a glass of Merlot…

What is your favourite hard French cheese, and how do you like to enjoy it? Join the conversation and add your comments to the box provided below!

Read more on becoming a savvy cheese connoisseur…
1. Soft French cheese
3. French cheese expertise
4. French cheese resources

Image Credits
1. Fromage de Sartène, via Wikimedia.
2. Cantal by Michael, via Flickr.
3. Emmental, via Wikimedia.
4. Comte Cheese by Artizone, via Flickr. 
5. Mimolette Chese by Chris Waits, via Flickr. 
6. Beaufort d’été by Jason Hamner, via Flickr.
7. Bethmale by Joselu Blanco, via Flickr. 
8. Laguiole Vieux Cheese by Artizone, via Flickr. 

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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  1. Esme Wakefield Aug 24, 2014 at 5:56 AM - Reply

    Great informative article! I love picking a new cheese every time I’m at the supermarché =)
    It goes without saying French cheese is always a necessity when one is in France (or elsewhere!). Perhaps unusually, my favourite cheeses are hard cheeses. Beaufort and Comté… Mmmm! I know what I’ll be dreaming about tonight!

    Dare I say it – French cheese is better than french patisserie…

  2. Elise Mellor Aug 25, 2014 at 5:34 PM - Reply

    I have never tried laguiole but I really must. It sounds superb! Now I’m dreaming of cheese with a rustic baguette and a mellow glass of red.

  3. Tegan Barlow Aug 29, 2014 at 11:18 AM - Reply

    I must admit, I swoon over the soft varieties, especially ripe Camembert. In saying that, I’m now hankering to try Mimolette, its unique colour and mite process has piqued my interest. I agree with Elise, cheese and wine for dinner sounds superb. I think it’s time I pay my local fromagerie a visit…

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