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With its rich and eventful history Camembert cheese has turned into one of the most remarkable symbols of traditional French gastronomic delicacies and one of the key elements of national French cuisine.
Camembert is known world-wide as a soft white cheese, made from the freshest milk of the cows that graze upon the luscious grasslands of the Norman dairy farms located in the northwestern part of France. The cheese is named after the small picturesque town of Camembert where it was first produced. As the Normandy region had been famous for its fromages for hundreds of years, there had to be something special about the new product which had appeared at the local markets since the late 18th century. Its story traces back to the French Revolution, when a persecuted priest from Brie found his shelter at the farmer’s house owned by Marie Harel. He taught the kind woman the style of the fine creamy cheese from his homeland. Hence its manufacturing process appears to be an original combination of the local cheesemaking techniques and those from the Brie region. The legend says, it was Napoleon III who gave Camembert cheese its contemporary name when it was presented to him by Marie’s grandchildren sixty years later. The cheese also was a part of French soldiers’ rations during the First World War, gradually gaining its national and international fame.
Today Camembert is AOC protected as “Camembert de Normandie”. It is considered a fermented cheese: its surface is sprayed with a culture that helps form the downy edible rind spotted with terracotta patches. The cheese ripening period takes three weeks. When matured properly, it has an ivory, velvety and rather runny interior, covered with a smooth bloomy crust. Camembert taste amazes with the wide gamut of different hints, varying from milky or buttery to piquantly salty and mushroomy.
To reveal all flavors of Camembert when serving it for the cheese board, let it get to the room temperature. Slightly warmed, it will be easily spread on French baguette or crackers. Camembert pairs successfully with a glass of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel or the Norman apple brandy, known as Calvados. This mild cheese will also shine well with fresh or dried fruits, nuts and even blackberry or cranberry jams. Spiced with rosemary or thyme, seasoned with garlic or mustard and baked, Camembert turns into a splendid flavorful hot appetizer. It works great as a melting cheese as well, relishing your fondues, soufflés, omelettes, terrines, quiches and many other dishes and making them genuine cookery masterpieces. Versatile and ubiquitous, it will claim to become an ever-present ingredient of your cooking and a permanent resident of your fridge.