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If you ever have trouble telling Camembert apart from its bloomy-rinded cousin Brie, one sniff should settle things.
Camembert is distinguished by an aroma that’s hard to miss: one part cabbage and one part barnyard, all wrapped up in that iconic wooden box. Ready to add a little funk to your cheese plate? Whole Foods Market global cheese buyer Cathy Strange goes behind the scenes with Hervé Mons, one of the world’s most renowned cheese affineurs.
Below, five things you should know about gooey, creamy Camembert:
It’s over 200 years old. Originally created in 1791 by dairy farmer Marie Harel, soft-ripening Camembert is made in Normandy. (That’s relatively recent when you consider that Brie has been around since the Middle Ages.) It’s the beta-carotene-rich grass along the hilly terrain that helps give Camembert its buttery hue.
It’s seriously funky. And that’s just the way we like it. Camembert boasts a deep aroma with notes of cabbage, mushroom and earth — much more potent than mild-mannered Brie.
You can judge Camembert by the box. Unlike typically larger wheels of Brie, true Camembert is always sold in petite, compact discs, rather than in wedges. You’ll find it wrapped in paper and boxed in a wooden container.
How do you know it’s ripe? Smell it. You want an intense barnyard (in a good way) aroma. Most importantly, feel the rind. It should be supple around the edges, but never cracked or broken — that’s a sign that the cheese is overripe.
Apples are Camembert’s best friends. Marry melty Camembert with a cider or apple brandy — two things Normandy’s distilleries are noted for. Or, opt for a dry sparkling wine from nearby Champagne.
Get the full Hervé Mons story on Panna.
Are you a fan of Camembert? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it?