Boursin: Creamy, garlicky, tasty—and versatile

My love affair with Boursin started maybe 40 years ago, when it was still an imported delicacy from France, so creamy and so garlicky. Now made in Canada, and even though manufactured on an industrial scale, the garlic and herb Boursin is very similar to what I recall enjoying so many years ago.

Which is to say the love affair continues.

It’s easy to understand why beguiling Boursin may well be the most popular flavoured soft cheese in the world, now sold in some three dozen countries.

Boursin was developed by French cheesemaker Francois Boursin in 1957 in Normandy. He was inspired by a traditional fromage frais dish in which dinner guests use bowls of fine herbs to season their own cheese.

A major newspaper in France reported incorrectly that Boursin’s cheese was flavoured with garlic. It was actually a competing cheesemaker who had introduced the garlic cheese. The newspaper article generated such interest and demand for garlic Boursin that the cheesemaker spent two years developing a garlic-flavoured cheese—which was introduced in 1963 to quickly become a household name across France.

Not only was Boursin an excellent cheesemaker, he had marketing smarts. In 1968, Boursin made history as the first cheese featured in a TV ad campaign. It featured famous French comedian Jacques Duby cast in the role of the first “Boursinophile,” a cheese lover unable to resist the alluring taste of Boursin whatever time of day or night. Waking in the middle of the night, he rushes to the fridge in his pyjamas yelling for Boursin over and over again.

You may recall seeing Boursin commercials on Canadian TV, for example:

More than 50 years later, Boursin now is available in seven flavours, with garlic and herbs being the most popular. The original recipe has changed little:

Pasteurized cow milk and cream, culture, garlic, salt, fresh and frozen parsley, white pepper, and fresh and frozen chives.

Since 2011, Boursin has been made in Canada in St. Hyacinthe, Québec, by Agropur, the Canadian dairy co-operative, for Bel Cheese Canada , the Canadian arm of Bel Group, the France-based multinational. Agropur also produces Bel’s other popular cheeses, The Laughing Cow and Mini Baby Bel.

Boursin is sometimes dubbed a Gournay cheese, Gournay being the name of the region in Normandy where Boursin was first made. The cheesemaker used the name when he was first asked to classify the cheese for customs purposes

Why is Boursin so popular?

  • The taste is irresistible, especially if you like garlic.
  • The small 150-gram wheels looks perfect.
  • The flavour balance between creamy and savoury is just right.
  • That slightly granular mouthfeel has one smacking lips. The finish lingers nicely.
  • The price point, as Boursin is so widely available including at discounters like Costco and Walmart, is affordable and appealing.

And it is such a versatile cheese. Great for snacks, wonderful for appetizers, excellent for cooking, just the thing for a picnic, as the slogan says, “Bread. Wine. Boursin.”

We keep Boursin in the cheese fridge, pretty well year round. Recently, we cooked with it, making a truly delicious stuffed chicken breast.

We seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika and stuffed the breast with Boursin, sautéed spinach and a dusting of Parmigiano. Baked at 375F for 30 minutes. Served with a garden salad.

We also transformed leftover mushrooms into lovely appetizers: Sautée mushroom stems and spinach, then add Boursin and mix until creamy. Stuff the mushroom caps and top with Parm. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes.

Although Boursin is so readily available and affordable, one of these Covid Days we’re going to try making it at home, following this simple recipe:

We’ll let you knows how it turns out. If you have made it at home, let us know in comments below.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs is Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca. He’s never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever.

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