Camembert is probably one the most popular French cheeses in the world. It has been successful over the years, and in fact, it was exported all over the world and is now produced in different countries such as Italy, Switzerland, USA, Brazil, and Japan. However, this cheese is generally unrecognized and only a few people know about its story. With this, let us know more about the Camembert cheese.
Based on a legend, Marie Harel, an inhabitant of Camembert in the Normandy region in France, invented the Camembert cheese in 1791. She created it using raw milk. Since 1680, cheeses were already produced in Camembert and Marie Harel probably just improved the recipe. She was helped by a non-juring priest named Abbey Bonvoust, who was on the run from French revolutionaries calling for his head and who gave her a secret about the preparation of cheese.
By the end of the 19th century, railways and steamboats were spread all over Europe, creating new outlets for the Camembert cheese in France and abroad. A lot of Camembert producers were interested with the new opportunities but there’s one problem, and that was how to carry the Camembert cheese efficiently. As a solution, a French engineer named Ridel created a wood box in 1890 to carry the cheese easier. Later on, it was used by all the Camembert producers.
Camembert’s success during those times had changed the social organization of a large part of Normandy. Milk production became the first agricultural production and aside from that, rich farmers have organized co-operative societies to collect milk from farms. This had probably changed the taste of the Camembert cheese and gave it the one we know today. And during those times, it had also obtained its light yellow color.
As the years pass, the reputation of Camembert grew quickly and other countries began producing their own versions. Norman notables were quite happy about the cheese’s success at first, however, they eventually began feeling afraid of losing precious consumers, and as well as letting their cheese be modified, leading to its quality being changed.
This is the reason why they decided to create the “Genuine Camembert of Normandy Makers Syndicate” which clearly defined what a Norman Camembert cheese is and how it should be made. This was inaugurated in 1909 by M. Vignoboule, its first president.
After the Second World War, there were new changes that occurred. The production of Camembert had to evolve to adapt itself to the increase of the consumption and as well as to survive to the new competition. During these times, the first giant factories were built and the first robot that makes Camembert was tested successfully.
The producers of Camembert cheese were still trying to preserve its quality and fame. That’s why in 1968, they obtained a Label rogue which is a French quality label. And in December of the same year, the Camembert cheese received the Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC), which is a special brand given by the French government to the producers who respect a high number of recommendations. It is a label created to protect the original flavor of the Camembert cheese.
Characteristics of Camembert Cheese
Camembert is a soft-ripened, artisan cheese that is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. It has a chalky, runny, soft, and smooth texture, a bloomy white rind, and is pale yellow in color. It has a buttery, creamy, milky, and sweet flavor and an earthy aroma, however, it is not vegetarian.
When the Camembert cheese is fresh, it has a bland taste and us hard and crumbly in texture. Young Camembert on the other hand, has a milky and sweet taste. There are now other very good varieties of Camembert cheese that can be found in Normandy today, but the best of them is the Camembert Le Chatelain.
Camembert Cheese Pairings
Camembert cheese is great to pair with a crusty baguette, crackers, hazelnuts, fruits, and pecans. It can also go well with a traditional glass of Normandy cider or Calvados. You can also pair it with beers such as Czech pilsners, IPAs, and Belgium saison.
If you want to pair Camembert with wine, its combination of nutty and sweet flavor pairs well with single malt scotch from Speyside. It can also be paired with light red wines such as Beaujolais, St. Emilion, Chenin Blanc, or St. Estephe.
Camembert is indeed a delightful cheese that was invented years ago and is still being produced up until today. It is another one of those great cheeses that can be served in events and a must try for all cheese lovers out there.