- What Is Camembert?
- Where to Buy Camembert Cheese
- How to Store and Ripen Camembert Cheese
- How to Eat Camembert Cheese
- The Best Camembert Cheese Pairings
Few cheeses are as beloved as Camembert. This plush, buttery bloomy rind is an icon of French cheese with an intriguing backstory, enticing flavors and textures, and influence on cheesemakers and cheese lovers around the world. Here’s everything you need to know about Camembert cheese, including what it is, where it’s from, and how to store, serve, and pair it with food and drink.
What Is French Camembert Cheese?
Camembert is a soft-ripened cheese in the bloomy rind subfamily. It’s known for its small round shape, snowy white rind, creamy interior, and flavors ranging from mild and milky to earthy and vegetal depending on age. As it ripens, Camembert’s texture goes from slightly firm to oozy and runny, and its flavors and aromas intensify the longer it matures.
Where Is Camembert Cheese From in France?
Camembert hails from Normandy, a region of northern France. The protected, traditional version of Camembert is called Camembert de Normandie, and in the European Union, only cheeses made in certain parts of Normandy from the raw milk of certain breeds of cow may use the name. It’s said that a farm woman named Marie Harel invented the recipe for Camembert during the French Revolution.
Because Camembert has become such a popular cheese—and because traditional raw milk Camembert can’t be imported into the United States—many American cheesemakers produce their own versions, which are often superior to the pasteurized versions imported into the American market. One of our favorite domestic Camembert-style cheeses is Petite Camembert from Marin French Cheese in California.
Where to Buy Camembert Cheese
Look for Camembert cheese in independent cheese shops or specialty cheese counters at well-stocked supermarkets. You can also find local or regional Camembert-style cheeses at your local farmer’s market or in our online artisan cheese shop.
Is Camembert Cheese the Same as Brie?
Camembert and Brie are not the same. Both originated in northern France, and they’re both soft-ripened bloomy rind cheeses. But they come from different regions, are different sizes, and have different production requirements. While Brie and Camembert have similar flavor profiles, each has its own unique identity.
How to Store and Ripen Camembert Cheese
Camembert cheese requires the proper temperature and humidity to maintain its quality and shelf life.
In the Cheese Grotto, you can store Camembert for up to three weeks in the refrigerator or up to seven days on the counter at room temperature (below 70 degrees). The Grotto’s reusable clay brick maintains the perfect humidity for cheese, so there’s no need for cheese paper or plastic wrap. If you’re not using the Grotto, Camembert should be wrapped in cheese paper and kept in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
You can also use the Cheese Grotto to ripen a young wheel of Camembert or other bloomy rind cheese until it’s achieved the aroma, flavor, and texture you prefer. Check out our guide to ripening Camembert-style cheeses in the Grotto.
How to Eat Camembert Cheese
Camembert cheese can be enjoyed on its own, with a glass of wine, or on a bountiful cheese board with a variety of sweet and savory accompaniments.
How to Serve Camembert
Camembert should be brought to room temperature before serving. Simply remove the cheese from the refrigerator 30 minutes to one hour before you plan to eat it. The cold of your refrigerator mutes the flavors and aromas of the cheese and makes its texture firm and waxy. Once it comes up to temperature, it’ll taste, smell, and feel much more delicious in your mouth.
The Best Camembert Cheese Pairings
Camembert cheese pairs beautifully with a wide variety of sweet and savory foods, wines, beers, ciders, and cocktails. The trick is to complement or contrast flavors and textures with the cheese’s milky, creamy characteristics.
In terms of beverages, try for a crisp, dry white wine, ideally one with bubbles, like Champagne. Light or medium-bodied reds work well, too. Beers, including funky, farmhouse-style ales, and wild-fermented ciders can bring out Camembert cheese’s barnyard notes, while the acidity of fruity, citrusy vodka or gin cocktails cuts through its richness.
When building a cheese board around Camembert, reach for sweet treats like wildflower honey, chocolate, fresh berries, and fruit preserves. Savory pairings that complement Camembert include charcuterie, pickled vegetables, and roasted mushrooms.
How Do the French Eat Camembert?
In France, Camembert is typically enjoyed on a hunk of crusty baguette (never with crackers) or on its own with no bread at all. It’s also enjoyed with simple accompaniments like fresh or dried fruit. Dry white wines like Sauternes, medium-bodied reds like Gamay or Pinot Noir, rustic saisons, and Norman-style apple or pear cider are common beverage pairings.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy French Camembert cheese? Tag us @cheesegrotto on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and let us know!
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