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 Camembert de Normandie

Once upon a time...

In 1680, parish records from the village of Camembert, in the Orne département, already mention a local dairy product.

As soon as 1708, Thomas Corneille mentions in his Dictionnaire Universel Géographique & Historique “excellent cheese from the area of Camembert” sold on the nearby Vimoutiers market. But it is more likely that he was writing about cream cheese.

As he was fleeing from the French Revolution, abbot Bonvoust, a non-juring priest from the Brie area, took shelter at Marie Harel's, to whom he suggested she should refine her cheese in a cellar. Nevertheless, at that time and until the beginning of the 20th century, the cheese probably did not have the same appearance as today, since it was covered with Penicillium camemberti, a greyer than white type of mold, but also covered with other types of mold, yeast or bacteria!

In the 19th century, the works of Pasteur provided a thin white layer to the Camembert, originating from Penicillium candidum. It is progressively superseded during refining by Brevibacterium linens.

The launch of the Paris-Lisieux-Caen railway line in 1850 favored camembert sales in the Paris region, then even further with the invention of the wooden box that was industrially manufactured by Etienne Ridel for the first time in 1890.

The production of Camembert "au lait cru moulé à la louche" (from raw milk and by ladle molding), first took place in the farms then became a handcraft and was finally industrially produced thanks to the emergence of truly “dynastic” families.
 

Towards a better recognition of quality

The Syndicat du Véritable Camembert de Normandie has been claiming its exclusive right to the “Camembert” appellation since 1909, a right which unfortunately entered into the public domain following a decree of 1926. This is the reason why, today, camembert can be produced anywhere in the world. The only requirement is to follow the CODEX 276-197 international standard, which stipulates that the milk used can come from cows or buffaloes!


The Syndicate obtained the "Label Rouge" seal of approval in 1968 for Camembert "Fabriqué en Normandie” (made in Normandy), later replaced by a Designation of Origin, for the “Camembert de Normandie” (Camembert of Normandy) in 1983. The latest decree detailing the requirement specifications dates from November 22, 2013.
 

The designation area: the Bocage (hedged farmland)
of the Calvados, Manche, Orne and Eure départements


 

The production of the milk

The milk used to make Camembert de Normandie is exclusively produced in the defined geographical area, and so is at least 80% of the forage fed to the dairy herd. Grassland is preserved with a ratio of at least two acres of meadows for each acre of corn silage fed to the dairy herd.

Grass is favored to feed the cows (with a minimum of 0.8 acres of grass per dairy cow) and grazing is mandatory for at least 6 months during the year. Concentrate feed - other than forage - is restricted to 4000 lb per cow and per year. Finally, particular attention is given to the quality of feed, following a positive list of authorized feed.

In 2017, in order to provide enough time for farmers to adapt, at least half of the dairy cows shall be of Normande breed.

 

The making of the cheese

The milk is collected by the dairies, according to strict health and safety requirements, and observing the cold chain. Once at the cheese-making facility, which shall be located in the designation area, the milk is partially skimmed, then aged in order to favor the development of the microorganisms useful to the transformation. At that moment and from the time the cow was milked, no longer than 3 days have lapsed.

The milk used is exclusively raw, and shall not be heated to temperatures higher than 40°C.

1st day: from renneting to draining

Animal rennet is added to the heated milk, which makes it curdle. One hour later, a compact curd appears and ladle molding can start, whether by hand or automated process. Cheese strainers are then turned over and covered with a metal plate, which makes the whey drain naturally.

 

Molding is achieved through 5 successive actions of the ladle, with a minimum of 40 minutes between each action.

2nd day: from the removal of the mold to salting

The next day, the cheese, which took its shape, is removed from the mold. Penicillium Candidum is then sprayed on its sides and edges and it is sprinkled with dry salt. The cheese is finally left for drying on racks at a temperature of 18 to 20°C.

From day 3 to day 13: ripening rooms

Cheese refining can then start in the ripening rooms where temperature and humidity are supervised in order to help the production of mold which will influence appearance, texture and taste. It is then turned over several times until the Camembert can be considered "moussé blanc" (white cotton wool fuzzy appearance).

From day 14 to day 21 : packing

The Camembert de Normandie is packed in wooden boxes before it is further refined. They can only be delivered to customers from the 22nd day after the day renneting took place.

It takes 2.2 liters of milk and 22 days to make a Camembert of Normandie.

 

A few figures

In 2013, 660 farmers produced 50 million liters of milk. Ten cheese making facilities, among which two dairy farmers, employed around 500 people who produced 5112 metric tons of Camembert de Normandie, a total of more than 20 million units.


Flat cylinder, diameter: 11 cm,
3 cm thick.

250 grammes,
115 grammes of dry matter.

 

How to choose it ?

Camembert de Normandie can be enjoyed all year long. According to taste it can be chosen at different stages of refining in order to let it reveal its softness and scent. It is considered refined “à point” from the 35th day, and “à cœur” after 45 days.

Its shape is regular with flat sides. Its rind is thin and slightly wrinkled; its white and thin flora can look red in places. Its creamy yellow paste, in the refined area, shows small holes called "ouvertures" (openings).

The cheese is soft, which means it will return to its original shape after its rind has been slightly pressed with a finger. Its paste is smooth, soft and not sticky.

Its scent is strong but remains delicate, it is redolent of undergrowths, cellars and stables.
 

Its taste is straight, balanced and slightly salted. A dairy (butter and cream), fruity, animal and mushroom taste can be enjoyed. The more refined the cheese is and the stronger the taste.

 

How to savor it ?

Camembert de Normandie shall be stored in its original packaging at a temperature between 5 and 10 °C. It is better to serve it at room temperature, taking it out of the box at least one hour before and taking it out of its wrapping fifteen minutes before eating.

Camembert de Normandie is a must on any cheese tray and is also appreciated at breakfast, at the aperitif, as a starter in a salad, or in mouth-watering recipes: in a gratin with vegetables or potatoes, in a sauce on meat, fish or pancakes…

 

What to drink with it ?

It is generally advised to marry cheese and drinks from the same region: Camembert de Normandie and PDO Cidre du Pays d’Auge or PDO Pommeau de Normandie.

Unlike the traditional view that red wine shall be served with cheese, most of cheese is served best with white wine: Riesling, Arbois Savagnin, Beaujolais Chardonnay, Vouvray or even brut Champagne.

For red wine addicts, it is preferable to choose wines with less prominent tannins: Touraine, Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil, some Beaujolais and Pinot noir from Alsace or Champagne. Try Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Cabernet Sauvignon or Gamay with more refined cheese.

For teetotalers, Norman apple juice will be ideal. A taste for the unusual may appreciate the combination of lightly refined Camembert with japonese green tea such as Sencha.

 

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