Legend has it that, during the French Revolution, a refractory priest, originally from Brie, found refuge with Marie Harel, a farmer in Camembert, in the Orne. To thank her for her hospitality, he gave her the secret of making a cheese from his region.
But the Norman origins of camembert seem more distant, since in 1860, the parish archives of the village of Camembert already mentioned this cheese specialty. During the 19th century, with the creation of the Paris-Lisieux-Caen railway line, Camembert cheeses quickly established themselves on the markets of Paris and all of France.
In 1890, the invention of the famous round poplar box allowed Camembert to be transported over long distances without any problems. In the 20th century, Camembert de Normandie fell victim to its own success. Other cheeses bearing the same denomination appear on the stalls. Faced with this competition, the Normans created, in 1909, the “Syndicate of manufacturers of real Camembert de Normandie”.
According to the manufacturing rules, Camembert de Normandie must have the shape of a cylinder 10.5 to 11.5 cm in diameter and 3 cm thick. It weighs about 250g. It is a soft cheese containing at least 45% fat on dry extract, or 22% fat on the finished product. It is always packed in a wooden box. Its rind, white in color, is fine and flowery.
It takes about twenty days to make this cheese speciality:
1st day : from renneting to draining. The milk is heated to around 35°C, placed in a basin and renneted. Rennet, of animal origin, causes the milk to curdle. The average curdling time is one and a half hours. Then comes the molding with a ladle, an operation that gives the dough its suppleness and smoothness. After five passages of a ladle per mold and a wait of approximately one hour between each ladle, the mussels drain naturally before being turned once in the night and covered with a metal plate which promotes draining .
2nd day: from demolding to salting. The next morning, the cheese took its shape. It is then unmolded. It is sprayed on its faces and on its edge with “Penicillium Candidum” before placing it on a rack. The racks are then placed on trolleys. The draining is then completed at a temperature of 18 to 20°C. Finally, the cheese is salted by sprinkling dry salt.
From the 3rd to the 15th day: ripening in ripening rooms. During this period, the cheeses are placed in ripening rooms, air-conditioned rooms whose temperature and humidity level are monitored and controlled. At the end of this period, the cheese has become a “white mousse” Camembert.
From the 15th to the 21st day: The camemberts are sorted according to their quality. They continue to ripen on a board and then are packed in wooden boxes. The cheeses are then ready to be shipped.
Choose it and taste it
A genuine Camembert from Normandy can be recognized by its regular shape and its downy white rind dotted with red pigmentation. Its paste, light yellow, is smooth and supple. Its smell, although having bouquet, must remain delicate. Its taste, meanwhile, is fruity and a little spicy. The cheese should be soft to the touch.
Camembert de Normandie is eaten all year round. Depending on taste, it will be chosen at different stages of ripening. Semi-refined, its bouquet is light. Refined, its flavor is more pronounced. It is ripened “to perfection” between 30 and 35 days. It is the essential base of any good cheese platter.
It should be stored at a temperature between 5 and 10°C. It is best to keep it in its original packaging, in the bottom of the refrigerator. It should be served at room temperature (18 to 20°C) to express all its qualities. The tradition wants that it is consumed at the end of the meal. However, it can be served as a canape as an aperitif or used in the kitchen to make delicious recipes.