According to legend, during the French Revolution an insensitive priest, originally from Brie, found shelter with Marie Harel, a peasant woman 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 further away, as the parish archives of the village of Camembert already mentioned this cheese specialty in 1860. In the 19th century, with the construction of the Paris-Lisieux-Caen railway, Camembert cheeses quickly established themselves in the markets of Paris and all of France.
In 1890, the invention of the famous round poplar box ensured that Camembert could be transported over long distances without any problems. In the 20th century, Camembert de Normandie became a victim of its own success. Other cheeses with the same name appear on the stalls. Faced with this competition, the Normans founded the “Syndicate of Manufacturers of Genuine Camembert de Normandie” in 1909.
According to the manufacturing rules, Camembert de Normandie must be in the form of a cylinder with a diameter of 10.5 to 11.5 cm and a thickness of 3 cm. It weighs about 250 grams. It is a soft cheese with a minimum of 45% fat on dry extract, or 22% fat on the final product. It is always packed in a wooden case. The skin, white in color, is fine and floral.
It takes about twenty days to make this cheese specialty:
1st day : from rennet to draining. The milk is heated to about 35°C, placed in a basin and curdled. Rennet, of animal origin, causes the milk to curdle. The average heating time is one and a half hours. Then comes the ladle molding, an operation that gives the dough its suppleness and smoothness. After five ladle passes per mold and a waiting time of about an hour between each ladle, the mussels sprout naturally before being turned overnight and covered with a metal plate that aids draining.
2nd day: from demoulding to salting. The next morning the cheese took shape. It is then deformed. It is sprayed on its faces and on its rim with “Penicillium Candidum” before being placed on a rack. The racks are then placed on carts. The tapping is then completed at a temperature of 18 to 20°C. Finally, the cheese is salted by sprinkling dry salt over it.
From the 3rd to the 15th day: maturation in ripening chambers. During this period, the cheeses are placed in ripening chambers, air-conditioned chambers whose temperature and humidity 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 by quality. They mature further on a shelf and are then packed in wooden crates. The cheeses are then ready to be shipped.
Choose it and taste it
A real Camembert from Normandy can be recognized by its regular shape and its fluffy white crust with red pigmentation. The paste, pale yellow, is smooth and supple. The fragrance, although with a bouquet, should remain delicate. The taste, meanwhile, is fruity and a bit spicy. The cheese should feel soft.
Camembert de Normandie is eaten all year round. Depending on the taste, it is chosen at different stages of maturation. Semi-refined, the bouquet is light. Refined, the taste is more pronounced. It matures “to perfection” between 30 and 35 days. It is the essential foundation of any good cheese board.
It should be kept at a temperature between 5 and 10°C. It is best to keep it in its original packaging at the bottom of the refrigerator. It should be served at room temperature (18 to 20°C) to express all its qualities. Tradition has it 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.