Camembert de Normandie

What is

History of Camembert de Normandie

Origins and Development

Camembert de Normandie, a renowned French cheese, originates from the Normandy region in northern France. The birth of Camembert dates back to the late 18th century, around 1791. According to popular lore, Marie Harel, a farmer from the village of Camembert, created the cheese with the guidance of a priest from Brie, who was seeking refuge in Normandy during the French Revolution. This connection is often credited with introducing the techniques used in Brie cheese-making to the Normandy region, although this story is part of the local folklore.

The cheese’s reputation began to spread beyond Normandy in the 19th century, thanks to the expansion of rail networks across France. Camembert’s fame skyrocketed when the engineer Ridel invented the wooden box used to transport the cheese, preventing damage during long journeys and further broadening its market.

Industrialization and AOC Designation

By the early 20th century, Camembert had become a symbol of French culinary heritage. The industrial production of Camembert began during this period, making the cheese widely available. However, to protect the traditional method and the regional heritage, Camembert de Normandie was granted an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status in 1983. This designation ensures that only Camembert made using specific methods and ingredients in designated areas of Normandy can be labeled as “Camembert de Normandie.”

Characteristics and Production

Camembert de Normandie is made from raw, unpasteurized cow’s milk, and is known for its creamy, soft, and slightly runny texture, and strong, aromatic flavor. The cheese must adhere to strict production criteria:

  • It must be made with raw cow’s milk from Normandy cows.
  • Coagulation should be primarily lactic and last at least 12 hours.
  • Each cheese is salted, hand-ladled, and then matured for at least three weeks.

Age Profiles

Camembert de Normandie is typically aged for a few weeks and has different characteristics at various stages of its maturity:

  • Young Camembert (1-2 weeks): Mild, slightly salty with a firm texture.
  • Medium-aged Camembert (3 weeks): Creamier and more pronounced in flavor.
  • Fully matured Camembert (4-5 weeks): Strong, pungent aroma with a runny and gooey texture.

Camembert in America

Introduction and Adaptation

Camembert was introduced to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during a significant influx of European immigrants who brought their food traditions with them. It gained popularity as an exotic European delicacy among American consumers.

Production and Regulatory Challenges

In America, the cheese encountered regulatory hurdles, primarily due to the U.S. laws regarding pasteurization. Most American-made Camembert is produced using pasteurized milk, which affects the flavor and texture compared to the traditional raw milk versions. Despite these differences, various artisanal cheese makers in the U.S. strive to recreate the authentic taste and texture of Camembert de Normandie using locally sourced milk and adapting the French techniques.

Cultural Impact

In the U.S., Camembert is often associated with gourmet food culture and is a staple in cheese platters, particularly during holidays and special occasions. Its creamy texture and distinct flavor make it a favored choice among cheese lovers. Additionally, it is commonly featured in culinary education and wine pairing sessions, showcasing its versatility and rich heritage.


Camembert de Normandie remains a symbol of French gastronomy and an enduring favorite worldwide. Its story from a humble farm in Normandy to international acclaim is a testament to its unique qualities and the rich cultural traditions of cheese making. In America, while the original raw milk version is less common due to health regulations, Camembert continues to hold a place of honor among cheese aficionados, illustrating the global reach and adaptability of this iconic cheese.

Tasting Notes

How is it made

Different styles

Compare with other cheeses

What does it pair with

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