Coeur du Neufchâtel: Cheese for Valentines

With Valentine’s day coming up next week, I thought I would post about about my favourite cheese – which just so happens to be heart shaped.

France is well known for the overwhelming variety of cheeses. I once heard that there was a different cheese for everyday of the year. In truth, there are more than 365 different cheeses and some of the lessor known cheeses, made using very traditional methods by only a small number of artisans, are in danger of disappearing from the list altogether. But each cheese is associated with a specific region, and named after that region.

If you think you know your French cheeses – take this quiz, and post your scores!

My favourite cheese, however, is made in the area where I live РNeufch̢tel-en-Bray, which is in the pays de Bray region of Normandy. Neufch̢tel cheese is said to be one of the oldest cheeses in France, and certainly in Normandy Рwhere it is older than the better known camembert and brie.

The earliest record of Neufchâtel cheese is 1050, where it is mentioned as a tithe payment. But from the end of the 18th century onwards this cheese becomes well-known and much liked, it was sent to Rouen and Paris, as well as being exported to the United kingdom. The cheese comes in a variety of shapes, but the most popular shape nowadays is heart-shaped, or the coeur du Neufchâtel.

There is very little known for certain why it is made in this shape, but legend has it that this originates from the end of the 100 Years War. It is said that the women who made the cheese did so in the shape of the heart to express their love to the non-French speaking English soldiers. Who knows if this is true, but it makes a nice story, certainly for this time of the year.

The cheeses come in three different sizes, the small ones are not much bigger than a golf ball. I bake the small cheeses until the inside is runny, and then serve them on lettuce with a red-currant jelly.

If you have not yet planned anything special for your loved one – it is not too late to book a city break in Paris, or even a quiet, rural break somewhere in the country.

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About Thomas Dowson

Hello, I am Thomas Dowson - a freelance writer and archaeologist living in Normandy, France. My field of expertise is prehistoric art - such as the cave paintings in the Dordogne and South Africa. But I am becoming passionately interested in France more generally, and Normandy in particular, and what this country and one of its very well known regions has to offer people with all sorts of tastes and desires. In 2005 I exchanged a university archaeology lecture room for a Bed & Breakfast in Normandy. More recently I started the Archaeology Travel website; sharing my expertise and love of archaeology and travel with others who also want to explore the many different pasts around the World.