Thought of the Week – Camembert in Bavaria

Camembert

This week I wrote about Obatzter, which you should definitely try, whether you make it yourself or eat in one of the wonderful biergartens in southern Germany. The Bavarian classic is really something special, but it also amazes me. Every time I prepare it, I ask myself three questions: 1. What is Camembert actually? 2. Where does it come from? and 3. How did THE French cheese end up in THE Bavarian spread? I finally wanted to have an answer to those questions and therefore we will get to the bottom of them in this TOW.

1. What exactly is Camembert?

Camembert is a white, round bloomy rind cheese made from cow’s milk. As can be assumed, it has a white bloomy rind. Depending on the degree of ripeness it is creamy and light to golden yellow inside. To produce Camembert, acidified raw milk is warmed and rennet is added which in consequence will make the mixture coagulate. The coagulation creates a jelly that must not be broken but is drawn in layers and put into round molds to obtain a soft cheese. Once the young loaves are sufficiently dried, they are salted all around and treated with a special kind of mold. They mature to what we know as Camembert.

2. Where does Camembert come from?

Camembert is a French product originated in Normandy. Bears a cheese the protected designation “Camembert de Normandie AOC” (engl.: Camembert from Normandy AOC), where AOC stands for “Appellation d’origine controlee” (engl.: Controlled Denomination of Origin), it was manufactured out of raw milk in the region of Normandy. The single name Camembert, however, is not protected and can therefore be used freely.

The story behind the tasty little thing is that during the French Revolution a priest had to flee his hometown Brie (yep, more cheese) and found refuge at a farmers’ house in a small town called Camembert in Normandy. In gratitude for her hospitality, the priest introduced the farmer to the secrets of cheese making. Together, they modified the process slightly and created a new type of cheese with a white bloomy rind. However, the Camembert got its name a bit later, when Napoleon got the cheese presented. According to legend, he asked for the origin of the product and decided to name the cheese after the little village.

3. How did THE French cheese end up in THE Bavarian spread?

Unfortunately, I could not find anything about how Camembert made its way to Bavaria. My personal explanation is as follows: Napoleon, the Camembert namesake and enthusiast, had close contacts with the former Bavarian royal family during the Bavarian-French alliance. Within this episode he probably enriched not only the local dialect but also the southern German cuisine. Influenced by this new fashion the Bavarian cheese makers began to produce the French export stinker alongside their own variants at the end of the 18th century. It was probably still a luxury item that was consumed consciously and because of that the leftovers were mixed with butter and spices to make them more durable. And thus, the Obatzter was invented. I believe this to be a conclusive statement but will definitely do some more research. Anyhow, we Bavarians are simply happy that Camembert has made it to the southern part of Germany and has supplemented our biergarten dishes with yet another delicacy.


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