Cheese lovers often want to know how their favourite dish is made. The same story is with camembert cheese. In early days the camembert cheesemakers were only inhabitants of the village of Camembert.
After this small village of Normandy the famous camembert cheese took its name. The village is composed of half-timbered dwellings huddled around the church. The origins of the village date back to the Dark Ages, well before the Norman invasion of England led by William the Conquerer in 1066 AD. A large tract of land was given to certain "Mambert" and this area rapidly became known in old French as "Champ de Mambert", or "Mambert's Field" during the Middle Ages. In church records the village appeared under the name "Campo Mauberti". Successive generations transformed the name into the "Camembert", and so it is named in our days. The village has its own patron saint - Saint Anne. The population of the village of Camembert is approximately 200 inhabitants, its area is about 2500 acres.
There situated a monument to the glory of Camembert. It was erected in 1926 at the crossroads below the village. Now it is also a picnic area nearby, on the bank of Viette river. The House of Camembert was opened in 1992. From the outside it looks like an open Camembert cheesebox and is used for exhibitions.
The visitors could discover that camembert cheesemakers are very hard-working people. The manufacture of the camembert is rather an exhausting operation.
It takes about three weeks to make a Camembert cheese. Generally, traditional Camembert is made from the fresh raw milk of Norman cows. Obviously, milk is the most important ingredient of the camembert. It should come from the Normandy countryside. It allows to keep the norms as well as the tradition. This milk is high in fat content as well as very rich in proteins and vitamins. First, whole milk is slightky heated and poured into large containers called "bassines normandes" (Norman bowls) in a room kept at a temperature of 28°C to 30°C. The main aim of this stage is to make the milk coagulate. To help curdling a natural rennet is added to the heated milk in conditions tha are different in every dairy. This curdled milk is then ladled carefully by hand, without breaking, into individual cheesemoulds. Extreme caution should be taken to prevent the curds from being shaken.
Camembert is imparted its creamy texture with the help of five landling passes. Each mould is filled with them. When the cheeses have drained sufficiently, they are turned over. These operations follow in a chain and take about one day, according to the number of cheeses being made. On the second day, the cheeses, which have their final shape at that stage, are removed from the moulds and taken to the salting room. The temperature constitutes about 18° to 20°C. Here dry salt is shaken onto all surfaces of each cheese. Initially this process was followed by the addition of the penicillium camemberti bacterium. Nowadays, this bacterium is replaced by a precious fungus "penicillium candidum". It is made in order to prevent blue moistures on the cheese. On the third day, the cheeses are placed in the drying room, which is kept at 10° to 14°C. The active part is over, but the camembert chese is not yet ready for consumption. 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.
Finally it is packed by camembert cheesemakers in its famous wood box, and sent to the consumers.
All the cheeses should receive the AOC. To reach this aim a Norman camembert should respect several norms. Here are few of them:
· During the whole process, the milk temperature should not rise over 37 °C (98.6 ?F). No milk powder, concentred milk, or lactic proteins should be added to that camembert
· The moulding should be done with a ladle in at least four times. The size of the laddle should be approximately the same as the size of the mould.
· The whole process is controlled by a specific commission composed of veterinarians, milk quality specialists, producers and members of the french administration. This commission tests the quality of the product in the farms and at each step of the making until the cheese merchants receive it.
Industrial Camembert is manufactured by camembert cheesemakers in the Pays d'Auge, the region of Normandy, and many countries the world over. Neetherless, the ingredients and method of manufacture are strictly controlled by French government decree, as do many of the great vintage wines of France. In the village of Camembert, one local farmer continues the tradition of making Camembert in the ancient manner.
Nowadays over 10,000 tons of Appellation Controlee Camembert are produced annually and even though the Appellation ensures that all the cheeses reach a certain minimum standard there are still cheeses and great cheeses.
Some features should be known by potential buyers of Camembert. A good Camembert should have a wrippled rind with a good coating of white downy mould with some reddish pigmentation in places. The interior should be supple throughout with a creamy white colour. The taste will fill the mouth and is often quite intense and fruity.
Camembert cheesemakers do great work to give camembert-lovers the opportunity to enjoy the soft, delicious taste of Camembert.