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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Day 55

One of my favourite food stories is the history of Camembert: in 1791, during the French Revolution, a monk from the Brie region was forced to flee. Finding salvation in the Baisse Normandie region, near the village of Camembert, where a peasant farmer named Marie Harel (or Arel) took him in to hide away from the revolutionaries. Be it compensation for helping to hide or perhaps just because he really wanted some cheese, the monk taught Marie how to produce Brie. However, something went slightly awry - it is now predicted that the milk from cows in the Norman region were different to those of Brie, due to climate and feed - and they created Camembert. The cheese was never officially named, though was enjoyed by the family; Marie passed on her recipe to her daughter. Her husband, Victor Paynel, presented it to Napoleon III who gave it his Royal seal of approval and named it Camembert (after the village). Though the cheese we know as ‘Camembert’ today is more likely to be a result of the industrialisation of the cheesemaking process during the end of the 19th century. In 1890 an engineer known as M. Ridel devised the wooden box - which is still used today - to transport the cheese for longer distances, in particular to America, where it became very popular. Also, before fungi were understood, the color of Camembert rind was a matter of chance, and said to be most commonly a blue-grey with brown spots. It was only from the early 20th century onwards that the rind became more commonly a pure white.

What’s the difference between Brie and Camembert? Traditionally Brie is made in larger wheels and sold in slices, while Camembert is made in smaller portions and sold individually (in about wheels of 12cm in diameter). During the production process cream is added to Brie, which gives it a higher fat content as opposed to Camembert, which uses stronger lactic starters. Brie is typically white and semi-soft on the inside but maintains its shape; Camembert is yellow on the inside and at room temperature will often go “runny”. In terms of taste Camembert is more buttery and rich and has more of an earthy flavour - hints of mushroom and truffles.