Tryst with European Cheese: Camembert | Part 1

A pile of nachos with a cheesy dip, a hot bowl of mac n cheese, a pizza loaded with cheese, or a regular grilled cheese sandwich, there are no limits to my love for cheese. Pair it with a glass(or bottle) of wine, and you have one of the best combinations of the world at your disposal.

My love to try different cheeses that this world has to offer has got me stuck to my new fascination towards European cheeses. Now that I am well versed with parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar and ricotta, I’ve decided to give my take on cheeses that are native to Europe, where people celebrate their meals with a simple block of cheese.

Be it raw, cooked or used as an ingredient, in Europe, cheese forms a part of the fabric of daily life and rightly so. The rich, aged or fresh, delicate or strong, cheese form an integral part of a meal in Europe.

In the last week of April, Google honoured Marie Harel, the inventor of camembert cheese, on what would have been her 256th birthday. The doodle showed how camembert cheese is prepared, step by step. This is what raised my curiosity and hence, became the first European cheese, that I wanted to share about.

It is said that in 1791, a priest from the northern region was fleeing the anti-clerical French Revolution that was sweeping the nation, took shelter in Vimoutiers, where Harel was a dairymaid and taught her how the soft-centered cheese was made in his home region. Harel added her own twist, making the cheese in smaller wheels, without adding cream and packed it in thin and round wooden containers.

The cheese is originally supposed to be made with unpasteurized cow milk, and that’s the one which receives the designation of ‘Camembert de Normandie’.

Camembert Cheese

This 45 percent milk fat cheese had a funky odour, with earthy tones, had contrasting elements of the white, speckled rind as opposed to pale, yellowish interiors.

This milk-based cheese had a smooth, runny interior and a white bloomy rind, which is caused by a white fungus, called penicillium candidum. The supple interiors of the cheese made me bite into the pale yellow cheese, which had a beautiful buttery and creamy aftertaste. The rind of the cheese was soft and edible, unlike other cheeses the rind of which is generally very tough.

Even though it tasted great by itself, I experimented with the cheese, but cutting it in half, and making something delicious with it. I topped it up with some sautéed onions and peanuts and placed it in the oven for a few minutes till the cheese melted a little. The smoothness of the cheese was being contrasted with the nuts and the saltiness was balanced out with the sweetness of the onions.

And if you don’t wish to cook it, then simply take some cream, mix it up with some chopped pistachios and dried pomegranate seeds(anardana) and spread it over the camembert cheese, which has to be split into half from the centre. And that’s it. Enjoy it with a glass of prosecco or red wine 🙂

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