- Creating the fresh cheese: The primary consideration in making a Camembert is to create the
young cheese that retains as much of the milk fat and moisture as
possible while the final acid develops. The very moist curd is then transferred very carefully to molds set
on a draining mat to release the whey over the next 12-24 hours. The
forms are carefully inverted several times during this period to
encourage moderate whey drainage. At the end of this period the cheese is salted on first one side and then the other to slow the bacterial action. The next step is to place the fresh cheese in a cool room with good
air flow to further dry the surface in preparation for aging.
- Preparing the surface: Once the cheese has been drained and dried it can be moved to a space for aging. At this point the surface flora develops and is
responsible for the final ripening and changing of the curd texture from
the initial raw white curd to the very different soft Camembert that
becomes very creamy and almost flowing in texture if allowed to warm up a
- This is a 3 stage affair:
- Natural yeast from the environment will
populate the surface during draining and drying. These can survive in
the more acid conditions of the young cheese. These will produce a very
fruity almost pear or apple like aroma and change the cheese surface by
reducing the acid level.
- Once the acid level begins to decrease, another natural occurring surface mold called Geotrichum (can
be added to the milk) will take over, drying out the greasy surface
somewhat and forming a light covering of white mold. This will then
decrease the surface acid even further.
- At this point the final surface growth begins. This is the Penicillium mold (also added to the milk) and will form a full white felt-like cover over the next several days.
- Traditionally these surface cultures came naturally to the cheese from the environs in which they were stored. Today however we have isolated these various strains in laboratories and they can be added to the cheese surface. Large industrial producers of Camembert do this by spraying after
the cheese has been dried off. They do have the the facilities to
control the surface moisture. Small scale producers are better off adding these surface ripening
cultures to the milk when the cultures are added because spraying
without the proper conditions can lead to moist cheese surfaces and
encourage the blue molds as well as the dreaded grey mucor (more on this
- Aging the cheese: This surface covering and its growth in a timely manner is essential in the development of a properly ripe Camembert cheese. As the final growth of penicillium occurs, it produces special
enzymes that travel into the cheese surface and begin to change the
protein structure to the soft paste we are familiar with in a ripe
Camembert. This ripening usually occurs over the next 2-3 weeks from the
surface to the center (centripetal) of the cheese. As this begins to happen, the cheese is usually moved to a much
cooler aging area where it is turned daily. This will slow the activity
down to make this protein change take place in a slower but more
complete manner. If the cheese is not cooled at this point the
conversion will happen too quickly and bitter peptides (smaller
proteins) may result.
As you can probably see here, the making of the initial cheese
form seems quite quick and simple but the proper draining, drying, and
surface development becomes a bit more challenging in creating a great