Growing up we always had cheese in the house; it was the regular store-bought orange cheddar, with some partly skim mozzarella thrown in for good measure. But on occasion my mother, who grew up on a dairy farm, would crave something more in the cheese department. That craving was for a soft bloomy rind French Cheese Masterpiece called Camembert. Ever since I started to make cheese, my mother, and now my sister have asked me, to make them some Camembert. Their wish hopefully coming true and their cravings will be come Camembert-able or will it be a Camem-Fail. Sorry was that cheesy?
Camembert is a surface mold-ripened cheese that comes from the Normandy Region of France and “Camembert de Normandie“ must be made with raw milk in order to meet Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) regulations. Like most cheeses, there is a story as to its creation and most are steeped in lore, Camembert is no exception, but as in the section below it is often the commercialization of the product that makes it famous:
“Camembert was reputedly first made in 1791 by Marie Harel, a farmer from Normandy, following advice from a priest who came from Brie.
However, the origin of the cheese known today as Camembert is more likely to rest with the beginnings of the industrialization of the cheesemaking process at the end of the 19th century. In 1890, an engineer, M. Ridel, invented the wooden box which was used to carry the cheese and helped to send it for longer distances, in particular to America, where it became very popular. These boxes are still used today.
Before fungi were understood, the color of Camembert rind was a matter of chance, most commonly blue-grey, with brown spots. From the early 20th century onwards, the rind has been more commonly pure white, but it was not until the mid-1970s that pure white became standard.
The cheese was famously issued to French troops during World War I, becoming firmly fixed in French popular culture as a result. It has many other roles in French culture, literature, and history. It is now internationally known, and many local varieties are made around the world.”
Excerpt from Camembert Wikipedia entry
I had purchased my milk in the late morning on a Saturday, and given it could take up to 10 hours from start to finish I figured I should wait until the next day to start. I have used this milk before, but the quality of curd that it had produced in the past, was not as nice as I get with other milk. I had spoken to another cheese maker about another cheese, and he mentioned that he sometimes “pre-cultures” his milk. That is to say he adds the culture directly to the milk in the jug about 12 to 24 hours ahead of the make. I figured why not, I had nothing to lose, so around 7 PM the night before I added 1/8 tsp of the culture to the 2L jugs of milk and back into the fridge they went.
The next morning I brought up the trusty roaster vat and started to set it up. I figured that using the 14 L insert for 4 L of milk would be overkill so I used a pot and put in the vat and poured water around it. Thanks to Larry at “La Bonne Vie” and his suggestion I put some chopsticks down so the pot would not be on the bottom of the water bath. It seems to have work like a charm; I then went about the process of warming the milk. As the culture was already added, all I had to do was reach temperature to speed up it’s activation and wait the 90 minutes to add the rennet and then wait another hour for the curd to set.
This was the best set I had with using this brand of milk and with that I cut the curd, but waited a few minutes between the cuts to let the crud heal.
There was the usual stirring; some directions call for you to start scooping out the curd, often called dipping, without stirring the curd. You want scoop out the curds with the whey and allow it to drain in the hoop. This one also has you add the salt to the curds and whey instead of salting the cheese after draining.
I had extra curd so I grabbed a Crottin Mould and filled it too.
The directions called waiting for 2 hours before the first flip, I found that with my mats that is too long. I flipped and the top of the cheese off and stuck to the mat.
Over the next few hours there was nothing to do but flip.
My small one was done draining after 6 hours. I pulled it out of the mould and used dental floss to cut it into 3 small wheels and into a ripening box they went and then into the fridge.
Finally I thought the Camembert was done draining the next morning (5 hours my….) and into a separate ripening box it went and into the fridge.
I came home to see that the cheese had collapsed on one side. I am glad my kids were in the room as I am sure my language would not had been rated “G” I wanted to save this cheese so lined my Reblochon Mould with a cheese cloth and put the Camemfail in it. I knew it would not drain correctly so I put the follower on and then applied light pressure in the form of a can of crushed tomatoes.
I probably should have let it drain again in the hoop and try flipping more often, but I was mad and in salvage mode.
Here are some brief notes as to some of the issues I have had.
I will keep you updated if the wisps of white joy arrive and when they are tried in 4 to 6 weeks if not sooner. I might remake this cheese with better milk.
As always for more pictures, be sure to go Much To Do About Cheese on Facebook.
Go make some cheese!