A. Cheese Classification
Hundreds of different cheeses are produced around the world. Officially, approximately 500 cheese types have been recognized (1). Several classification schemes have been developed to group these cheeses, and a good description of these classifications can be found in Fundamentals of Cheese Science (2). One system classifies cheeses based on hardness and spans the spectra from very hard, hard, semisoft, and soft. No category is developed for semisolid cheeses, and as such cheeses should not be described in this segment of the handbook, which covers semisolid dairy products. However, the author felt that several cheeses do belong in the semisolid dairy products group along with yogurt and sour cream. Thus, this chapter will describe one of these semisolid or ''spoonable'' cheeses: Fromage frais from France.
Fromage frais is a fresh acid-curd cheese that can be consumed immediately after production. Its name, fromage frais (translated: cheese fresh), clearly communicates to the consumer that it is a nonripened cheese, and freshness is a major attribute of this cheese. Fromage frais is very similar to the German cheese Quark, which has slightly higher solids content. In appearance it resembles yogurt, a resemblance that is amplified by the use of packaging similar to yogurt cups. The flavor is subdued, even bland, with a refreshing, mildly sour characteristic. Yet the product has a clear cultured flavor, which is not to be mistaken with acetaldehyde in yogurt. The mouthfeel should be smooth, rich, and homogeneous.
Compositions of fromage frais with different fat contents are outlined in Table 1. Declaration of fat content must be made on the label as percentage (g fat/100 g of product) (3). Some fromage frais is sold plain—no flavor/fruit is added. However, many versions exist with added fruit, herbs, flavors, and sweeteners. French legislation requires the cheese be made from pasteurized milk. Total solids content should be at least 15% when fat in dry matter is above 20% and at least 10% when fat in dry matter is below 20%. Permissible ingredients include sucrose, honey, natural flavors, fruit, pulp, juice, jam, fibers, and colorants. Nonnatural flavors to reinforce natural flavors may be added in low quantities. Sorbate or potassium sorbate are permitted in fruit mixtures as long as the quantity
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