Monday, March 3, 2014

I used to work as a cheesemonger, but I Camembert it any longer.

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Camembert (KAM-ehm-behr) is a cow's milk cheese originally made in Normany, which is northwest of Paris. Oddly, Camembert cheese is not made in the village of Camembert.

The name Camembert de Normandie is protected by the French goventment, and it refers to a bloomy rind cheese made from raw Normandy cow's milk and produced in the Normandy region of France.

However, like the name Brie, the name Camembert is not protected, and is sometimes used to refer to many similar styles of cheese that may or may not be related to Camembert de Normandie.

How is Camembert different than Brie?

Click here to learn how Brie is made.

The milk used for making Camembert has no additional cream is added. Camembert uses milk straight from the cow.

After the milk is curdled, moisture is retained by minimal cutting of the curd, and the curds are ladled into a form using a non-perforated ladle and are then pressed lightly. This technique means that more moisture stays with the curd as it is placed into a cylindrical form, and that the young cheese is fairly dense.

Wheels of Camembert are much smaller than wheels of Brie. Camembert is between four to five inches in diameter and one and a half inches tall. Wheels of Brie can be fourteen to sixteen inches in diameter.

The difference in shape helps Camembert mature faster than Brie.

Wheels of Camembert are sold intact, usually in wooden boxes. The characteristic wooden box was invented in 1890, and allowed this delicate cheese to be shipped overseas.

Since a wheel of Camembert has not been cut open, the interior has not been exposed to oxygen and will continue to ripen until it is cut. 

You can always buy a wheel of Camembert and allow it to continue to ripen in your refridgerator.

When is the cheese ripe? 

If you poke the cheese, it should feel like bread dough, but remember that bloomy rind cheeses ripen from the outside in, so they will be softer near the edges and slightly firmer in the center. 

Poking the surface is not a great indicator of the texture in the cheese’s center, so instead of poking the cheese, take the wheel and gently flex it. It should have a little give. If the wheel is stiff, the cheese should age longer.


How does Camembert taste?

When you finally cut into your ripe wheel of Camembert, you'll see that the paste is lighly straw colored. When you taste Camembert, you'll find a full flavored cheese that is mushroomy (truffles?), woody, slightly salty, and maybe a little nutty, and with less of the fresh milk taste that Brie has.

Dinah's Cheese is a Camembert-style cheese made by Kurtwood Farms on  Vashon Island, Washington. Its named after the farm's first cow, Dinah. That's her on the label.

This is a farmstead cheese, which means that all the milk comes from the farm where the cheese is made. 

All of Kurtwood Farms' cows are Jersey cows, and Dinah's Cheese is very yellow because that breed's milk is particularly high in butterfat. The cheese is velvety and rich, with hints of hay and wet stone flavors.

The next cheese post will tackle beverage pairing with Brie and Camembert.

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