|Country of origin||France|
|Region, town||Normandy, Camembert|
|Source of milk||Cows|
|Aging time||at least three weeks|
Camembert de NormandieAOC 1983, PDO 1992
The first Camembert was made from unpasteurized milk, and the AOC variety "Camembert de Normandie" is required by law to be made only with unpasteurized milk. Many modern cheesemakers, however, use pasteurized milk for reasons of safety, compliance with regulations, or convenience.
The cheese is made by inoculating warmed milk with mesophilic bacteria, then adding rennet and allowing the mixture to coagulate. The curd is then cut into roughly 1 cm (1/2 inch) cubes, salted, and transferred to low cylindrical Camembert molds. The molds are turned every six to twelve hours to allow the whey to drain evenly from the cut curds; after 48 hours, each mold contains a flat, cylindrical, solid cheese mass weighing approximately 350 grams (about 12 oz). At this point the fresh cheese is hard, crumbly, and bland.
The surface of each cheese is then sprayed with an aqueous suspension of the mold Penicillium camemberti and the cheeses are left to ripen for at least three weeks. The ripening process produces the distinctive powdery rind and creamy interior texture characteristic of the cheese. Once the cheeses are sufficiently ripe, they are wrapped in paper and may be placed in wooden boxes for transport.
However, the origin of the cheese known today as Camembert is more likely to rest with the beginnings of the industrialization of the cheesemaking process at the end of the 19th century. In 1890, an engineer, M. Ridel, invented the wooden box which was used to carry the cheese and helped to send it for longer distances, in particular to America, where it became very popular. These boxes are still used today.
Before fungi were understood, the color of Camembert rind was a matter of chance, most commonly blue-grey, with brown spots. From the early 20th century onwards, the rind has been more commonly pure white, but it was not until the mid-1970s that pure white became standard.
The cheese was famously issued to French troops during World War I, becoming firmly fixed in French popular culture as a result. It has many other roles in French culture, literature, and history. It is now internationally known, and many local varieties are made around the world.
Camembert cheese gets its characteristic flavor from many naturally occurring chemical substances, including ammonia, succinic acid and salt. When present, bitter notes may be caused by ornithine, cadaverine, and citrulline. Overripe camembert contains an unpleasant, excessive amount of ammonia, which is produced by the same microorganisms required for ripening.
Comparison to Brie
Brie cheese is a similar soft cheese, also made from cow's milk. However, there are differences, as Brie originates from the Île de France and Camembert from Normandy. Traditionally, Brie was always produced in large wheels and thus ripened differently. When sold, Brie typically has been cut from a larger wheel, and therefore its sides are not covered by the rind. By contrast, Camembert is ripened as a small round cheese fully covered by rind, changing the ratio between rind and inner part of the cheese (this affects the taste). It thus tends to be sold in thin round wood containers.
In a can
Camembert is also sold in tins, with a ring-pull tab for opening. The product is otherwise the same as the normal variant, wrapped dry in a paper/foil wrapper, and not immersed in brine or oil.
Czech and Slovak variants
A similar cheese is produced in the Czech Republic under the name Hermelín and in Slovakia as 'encián' or 'plesnivec'.
- Smith, Tim (2005). Making artisan cheese : 50 fine cheeses that you can make in your own kitchen. Beverly, Massachusetts: Quarry Books. ISBN 1-59253-197-0.
- The Invention of Marie Harel, Camembert de Normandie web site
- Pierre Boisard, Camembert: A National Myth, 2003 ( ISBN 0-520-22550-3 ) claims that Camembert was one of the first globalized, homogenized, and standardized foods.
- Kubíckováa, J.; W. Groscha (1998). "Evaluation of Flavour Compounds of Camembert Cheese". International Dairy Journal 314: 11–16. doi:10.1016/S0958-6946(98)00015-6.
- McGee, Harold (2004). On food and cooking: the science and lore of the kitchen. New York: Scribner. ISBN 0-684-80001-2.
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