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Lynn Deasy is a freelance writer, author, foodie, and garden tinkerer. She lives in a 600 year old house in southern France with her husband, Christophe. Currently, she is looking for a literary agent for her memoir CA VA? STORIES FROM RURAL LIFE IN SOUTHERN FRANCE which examines the oddities of French provincial living from an outsider’s point of view through a series of adventures that provide more than a fair share of frustration, education, admiration, and blisters…. yes, lots and lots of blisters. Lynn blogs every Monday, Wednesday, and sometimes Friday.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cheese: Camembert

This is even ten times better than it looks.
Given the abundance of cheese France produces, I’ve decided to tackle the subject once a month in a series of posts that bring some of the lesser known cheeses, (at least outside the France borders) into focus.  Some cheeses have a complicated history which I try to boil down to what makes them unique and notable, and others simply developed from “farm cheeses” made to be consumed where they were produced.  Either way, “Cheese” gives me a chance to explore one of the gastronomic delights of France and justify my excursions to a cheese monger as “research”.  And the research can be oh, so grueling…

 This post is from last year, but I couldn’t resist sharing it again since we got our hillbilly on and had some of this Saturday night.

Camembert cheese, a product of the Normandy region in Northern France, is probably the most widely consumed cheese in France.  Supermarket aisles are reserved for it alone, and consumers take their time choosing one.  A good cheese needs to be soft and it needs to smell.  If it doesn’t, the cheese is put back with a grimace and another one is picked up for inspection. The wooden boxed stored cheeses are opened, smelled, and squeezed.  I’ve witnessed heated discussions over cheeses and Camembert coinsures have probably spent days over the course of a lifetime picking out the right cheese.
Traditionally produced from unpasteurized cow’s milk, Camembert was first made in 1791 by Marie Harel, a farmer from the Camembert village.  Caving into market demands, most mass produced Camembert cheeses are now made with pasteurized milk, and therefore cannot carry the label AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), which is only reserved for those traditionally made with unpasteurized milk.
Camembert cheese is what American nightmares are made of; it is stinky, strong, and builds character the more it’s aged.  We bought a wheel two weeks ago and let it sit in the fridge.  Three days went by and the smell was getting so strong we had to pop it into a Tupperware.  We opened it Saturday night and were almost knocked to the floor the odor was so strong.  Our timing was perfect; it was ripe, soft, and ready to be cooked.
We bake our Camembert in a true country style: in the chimney.  The wooden box is wrapped in foil and placed on glowing ambers.  I’d be hard pressed to find a Parisian who would admit to doing this; however, anyone I’ve spoken to about it speaks rather enthusiastically, so I’m convinced this is a guilty hidden pleasure.  I refuse to hide my guilt; this is a simple gastronomic bliss.  Camembert is rich, creamy, and unctuous.  We reserve it mostly for the winter months when fresh cheeses are scarce, and when it can be devoured in front a warming fire.
Ahh, camembert... how I've missed thee!

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