One of the oldest known cheeses in France, Neufchâtel from Neufchâtel-en-Bray goes back to the 6th or 7th century. It was one of the first to made into heart shapes—ever since the Hundred Years’ War, when the local girls are recorded giving them to the English soldiers to win their hearts
Neuchâtel is a raw, mold-ripened cow’s milk cheese with an edible bloomy rind, similar to Camembert but with a drier, more crumbly grainy texture and saltier, more mushroomy taste (quite different from the soft, pasteurized cheese called Neufchâtel in the USA, invented in 1872 when an American cheesemaker added cream to the paste—and invented the ancestor of Philadelphia cream cheese and so many others).
Generally aged for 8-10 weeks before going on the market, it comes in different shapes; besides coeurs (hearts), there are bondes (cylindrical ‘bungs’ or ‘plugs’) and briquettes (little bricks). It gets smoother as it ages, but never tastes as strong as it smells.
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