What is Camembert cheese? 10 fun facts

Find out why camembert cheese is so popular in France, and how it is made, what to serve it with, and much more.
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In the land of cheese, one of the most famous cheeses in France has to the camembert. With a creamy interior, pungent aroma and intense flavor, this is one cheese that has become irresistible to cheese lovers everywhere.

So let’s see what exactly is camembert cheese and why it has become so popular, shall we? Allons-y!

1. Camembert is a soft cheese that comes from Normandy, France.

Camembert cheese is a soft cheese that originated from the Normandy region of France. The name Camembert comes from the village of Camembert, where it was invented by a woman named Marie Harel in 1791

She was a farmer in Normandy, who made the cheese by refining the process for Brie cheese. She passed the recipe on to her daughter, whose husband, Victor Paynel, presented one of his wife’s camembert cheeses to Emperor Napoleon III, who gave to it his royal seal of approval.

With the Emperor’s blessing, the cheese became very popular across France. During the 20th century’s world wars, Allied soldiers stationed in Normandy got used to eating the camembert in their rations and took stories of it back home.

2. It is made from cow’s milk and is unpasturized.

Camembert cheese is made from raw cow’s milk (“au lait cru“) which is then curdled using are age-old traditional methods.

It is made by inoculating warmed cow milk with a mesophilic bacteria, then adding rennet and allowing the mixture to coagulate.

The cheese is then formed into a small, round shape and left to mature for 48 hours. The surface of each cheese is then sprayed with a mold called Penicillium camemberti, and the cheeses are left to ripen for a legally required minimum of 3 weeks.

What is Camembert cheese? 10 fun facts 1

3. Camembert de Normandie is a protected AOC appellation.

The AOC variety “Camembert de Normandie” (approximately 10% of the production) is required by law to be made only with unpasteurized milk. When buying camembert look for cheeses that have the following letters on their packaging as a sign of quality:

  • AOC – Appellations d’origine contrôlée
  • AOP – Appellations d’origine protégée
  • IGP – Indication géographique protégée

You can buy Camembert de Normandie here.

4. There is a pasturized version called Camembert le Châtelain.

There are several variations of Camembert cheese, including Camembert le Châtelain, which is made with pasteurized milk. Many farmers in France produce pasturized versions of camembert to make it easy for transport and export across the world.

camembert

5. The rind of the camembert can be eaten.

Camembert cheese has a soft, creamy texture and a white, bloomy rind that appears after mold process. The cheese has a strong, earthy flavor with a slightly nutty and mushroomy taste.

5. It has a strong taste and smell.

The taste of the camembert cheese becomes stronger once the package is opened. After 3-4 days, the smell and taste becomes much stronger so be sure to eat it quickly.

6. Traditionally, camembert is sold in a wooden box.

Camembert is usually sold in a wooden box. You can use the box for presentation in recipes such as the Baked camembert. (Just remember to take off the plastic cover first!)

baked camembert

7. Camembert should be cut like a cake.

In France, there are cheese etiquette rules for how to cut the camembert. For round cheeses like the camembert, the easiest way to remember how to cut them is like a cake. Start in the center, and work your way out.

camembert shaped round cheese

8. It pairs well with wines.

Camembert is a rather creamy cheese and is often paired with red wines. It goes well with a tranquille and dry red wine from Bordeaux, like a Saint Emilion or a Graves.

The wines of Saint-Émilion are typically blended from different grape varieties, the Merlot (60% of the blend), Cabernet Franc (nearly 30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (around 10%). This fruity red wine has discreet notes of vanilla and spices. You can read more about Bordeaux wines here.

9. Serve camembert with bread and crackers.

Camembert cheese is usually served crusty bread like baguette, or non-flavored crackers. You can also serve it alongside some fruit such as pears, apples, or grapes to offset the strong taste of the cheese.

10. In French, the pie chart is called a “camembert”.

And finally for a fun fact, the camembert cheese is so famous, in French offices and schools the pie chart is sometimes called “a camembert”.

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If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about how to prepare a French cheese board. A bientôt!

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