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An Experiment in Camembert

March 22, 2010

Before I started this blog I decided that I wanted to explore the realm of making bloomy-rind cheeses.  The unctuous and oozing texture of Triple Creams, Brie and Camembert absolutely fascinate me.  Being that Camembert has always been one of my favorites, I decided to start with that.  I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive of making this style at home as the primary focus is to introduce mold (the good kind) to the process.  The idea behind this is that the mold actually breaks down the paste of the cheese, further softening the texture.  Once Pennicillium candidum is added, a soft white fuzz “blooms” on the surface of the cheese as it ages.  So in order to make this cheese for the first time, I needed to encourage white fuzzy mold to grow on this while I kept it aging in my refrigerator for 6 weeks…

To start off, I explored the actual method by which to add the mold.  There are actually two different methods.  The first one involves creating a solution of the mold and water and externally applying it by using a spray bottle after the cheese has formed its shape.  I read that this presents difficulties because of the added moisture.  If your humidity level becomes too damp, it can inhibit the mold growth.  The second version dictates that you inoculate your milk with the mold which allows it to spread evenly throughout.  This version was much more appealing.  It was easier and it took some of the guesswork out.

I began by bringing my milk up to 90 degrees and added my culture and the P.candidum. After maintaining this temperature for 90 minutes, I added my rennet and let it sit until I achieved a “clean break”.  See my post for Time For a Cheddar for a pic of what this looks like.  Once the curd is cut, they are stirred at the target temperature for 15-30 minutes before draining.  Unlike hard cheeses, these soft cheeses are not put into a press.  They are pressed under their own weight by allowing the curd to rest in a mold for an hour before the mold with the curd inside is turned upside down.  By repeating this process every hour for four to five hours, the curd settles into a basic shape and is ready to age.

Camembert requires a high level of humidity along with a cooler temperature (45°F) in order for the mold to properly bloom which should occur in approximately 7-10 days.  I sprinkled the cheeses with salt, wrapped them in foil, put them in a freezer bag, and placed them in the bottom drawer of my refrigerator as recommended.  Once the mold blooms and you reach 75% coverage, continue to age for anther 6 weeks…

So after the requisite 6 weeks, this is what I had.  The exterior is so soft, but there is a nice firmness in the middle.  I read online somewhere that if you gently press a finger into the top, it should give resistance as if you were to close your eye and lightly press against your eyelid…strange but true.  That is pretty specific, so I figured it must be accurate.  Sure enough – perfect match!  The surface of the cheese had just a whiff of ammonia that is sometimes present with this style.  Don’t misunderstand!  This isn’t as if you are sticking your nose in a bottle of Mr. Clean.  If the smell of ammonia is ever overpowering, then the cheese is way past its prime and shouldn’t be eaten.  This was more of a suggestive smell that was only recognized when my nose was almost on top of the cheese.    I cut into it and I was rewarded with a soft and smooth paste that was just a bit gooey along the outside.  The smell of the interior was absolute heaven.  It had a somewhat earthy smell with just a hint of mushroom.

The taste…  it needed salt.  Noooooooooooooo!!!!

I remember when following my recipe that the only added salt was a pinch at the end after you take the cheese out of the mold.  That seemed to be too little, but it was my first Camembert.  I didn’t want to deviate from the recipe until after trying what was written.  Now I will say this: I am very, very happy with this.  The salt would definitely enhance the flavor, which is why my wife and I sat and ate pieces sprinkled with a little sea salt on top.  I have since scoured online and found a couple of different options when adding salt to Camembert and other bloomy-rind cheeses.  I am anxious to try again and I will be sure to keep you posted.  Now if you will excuse me, I have a date with the other half of this cheese, my sea salt grinder, and a bottle of Saison…

9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2010 9:22 am

    You had me at Triple Creams, Brie and Camembert… I’m crossing my fingers that you’ll magically relocate to the Finger Lakes so Evan and I can be your official tasters and biggest customers!

  2. March 23, 2010 10:18 am

    Thanks Morgan! I definitely plan on exploring this style more. I felt more involved in the aging process as I actively made adjustments throughout the 6 week timeframe as far as humidity and exposure to air. I wax my hard cheeses as of now so I only have to regulate my temperature, as it kind of takes humidity levels out of the equation.

  3. March 24, 2010 11:52 am

    Your account of the process is fascinating–and you left me with a major jones for some of this cheese. Great photos, too…slurp, drool…

  4. Heather permalink
    December 8, 2013 11:45 am

    Hi Aaron, I found your recipe for camembert in Mary Karlin’s book Artisan Cheesemaking at Home. I’m wondering how long you wait after you add the rennet to get to your clean break after your 1 hr 30 min starter ripening stage. I can’t seem to find any suggested times or how long yours took. I have heard that the rennet set time makes a big difference in the outcome of the cheese. Thanks!

    • December 11, 2013 4:11 pm

      Hi Heather. Thanks for reading! My flocculation point was typically around the 15-20 minute mark which would indicate clean break for me around minute 35-40.
      This will depend upon your milk quality, rennet strength, etc…
      Hope this helps!

      • Paulette Walker permalink
        August 13, 2020 2:39 pm

        Hi, Aaron, I have made your Camembert recipe from Artisan Cheese Making at Home. It is too salty to eat! The recipe calls for 5 Tablespoons of sale in a recipe that only uses three quarts of milk. Other than the saltiness, it is the best looking Cam I have made, in terms of looks, paste, etc. What is the correct amount of salt for this recipe, please?

      • August 13, 2020 3:10 pm

        Hi Paulette. Thanks for reading and bringing me back to this site! I have stepped away for a while so this is a nice reminder!

        When did you add the salt? If you added to the curd post drain then yes, way too much salt. It should be added early to the curds and whey before draining. That allows the salt to incorporate throughout without direct salt to the curds post drain. 5 T should be about right when added there. If it is still too salty, I would adjust by 1 T and see if that helps.


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