A Celebration of Camembert

“For the most part, I try to be healthy and eat good things, but if you give me a baguette and some Camembert, I’m gonna eat it.” Gwyneth Paltrow.

While every day is Cheese Day as far as we’re concerned, it is nonetheless International Cheese Day this March 27, so we thought it would be a great time to talk about one of France’s most iconic, and, of course, most delicious cheeses, the mighty Camembert.

It’s also one of France’s most easily recognised cheeses. With its distinctive talcum-white rind shot through with tawny hints of the deliciousness beneath. The squat disc shape helps to visually distinguish the Camembert from its older cousin, Brie, which is usually made as a larger wheel. Underneath that rind, you’ll find the softly melting butter-yellow cow’s milk cheese which they say is best enjoyed when it oozing around the outside but still slight firm in the centre so that you can enjoy the full range of flavours and textures, from slightly chalky to smooth, creamy velvet, this cheese has to offer.

Unlike so many French cheeses, Camembert is a relative newcomer. While there is mention of a cheese named Camembert back in 1702, it is likely that it bore no resemblance to the cheese we see today. Instead, the modern version was most likely created around the time of the French Revolution when a local woman named Marie Harel offered shelter to a priest fleeing the Revolutionary loyalty oath. To pay her back, he taught her the cheesemaking technique used in his former parish in Brie, which Harel adapted to the local cheesemaking methods, and thus Camembert was born. Of course, no one knows any more if this story is actually true or not.

The differences in techniques used for making Brie and Camembert can be tasted though. Brie is typically creamier with a higher fat content, and subtle flavours of fruits and mushrooms. Camembert, on the other hand, has a lower fat content with more distinct flavours of mushrooms, almonds, truffles and even roast lamb.

As for pairing, given its origins a dry Normandy cider is always a delight on a hot day. If you prefer red wine, go for something light like a Beaujolais, or take a full-bodied, fruity white like a Chardonnay or sweet Chenin Blanc.

At Khéma Deli outlets (at Khéma La Poste and Pasteur in Phnom Penh, and Khéma Angkor in Siem Reap), you’ll find the original Camembert produced by artisan cheesemakers in France, and you’ll also find our own version, Khémabert, made right here in Cambodia using fresh cows’ milk from a herd near Preah Vihear. We challenge you to try out this delicious cheese, made with French savoir faire and flavours direct from the earth of Cambodia.

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