Camembert is a wonderful cheese. Fragrant and tasty, it's a wonderful cheese to nibble after dinner, or curling up with a book.
The following enlightening tale of Camembert is lifted from www.camembert-france.com:
- Legend has it that an inhabitant of Camembert, one Marie Harel, invented the cheese which bears the village's name. She was reportedly given the "secret" of its manufacture by a priest. During the French Revolution (beginning in 1789), all Roman Catholic priests in France were required to swear allegiance to the newborn republic. Those prelates who refused were executed or forced into exile. Some chose to hide in the countryside while waiting for better days. In 1790, during the month of October, the Abbé Charles-Jean Bonvoust supposedly sought refuge with Marie at her farm, Beaumoncel. He came from the Brie, a region near Paris famous for its cheeses. In return for the shelter she offered him, he gave to Marie the "secret" of making Camembert cheese.
- A nice legend, but the region was famous for its cheeses well before the birth of Marie Harel on April 28, 1761 ! In 1569, Brugerin de Champier in his De Re Ciberia referred to "augeron cheeses", as did Charles Estienne, another writer, in 1554. Thomas Corneille, brother of Pierre Corneille (author of Le Cid), spoke in 1708 of "the cheeses of ... Camembert" in his treatise on geography. During the 19th century, thanks to the advent of the railroad circa 1850, Camembert cheeses conquered the markets of Paris and France. In 1890 the now-familiar small round wooden container was invented - and Camembert cheeses were exported throughout the world! The bicentennial of Camembert cheese was celebrated in 1991.
And how Camembert is made:
- Making a Camembert cheese takes time: about three weeks. Traditional Camembert is made from the fresh raw milk of Norman cows, which is high in fat content as well as very rich in proteins and vitamins. After collection, the milk is heated (but not above body temperature) and poured into large vats in a room kept at a temperature of 28°C to 30°C. A natural rennet is added to aid curdling. This curdled milk is then ladled carefully by hand, without breaking, into individual cheesemoulds. Five landling passes are required so as to fill each mould and give the Camembert its creamy texture. When the cheeses have drained sufficiently, they are turned over. These successive operations take about one day, according to the number of cheeses being made. On the second day, the cheeses are removed from the moulds and taken to the salting room, which is at a temperature of about 18° to 20°C. Here dry salt is shaken onto all surfaces of each cheese, followed by the addition of the penicillium camemberti bacterium. On the third day, the cheeses are placed in the drying room, which is kept at 10° to 14°C. The ripening period is twelve days, depending on the season, after which the cheeses are ready for packing. They are further aged for four or five days at about 9°C before being sent to market.
More info here to come on some of my favourite Camemberts.