French cheesemaker accidentally creates new ‘lockdown’ cheese


A French cheesemaker has created a new type of cheese after he forgot about items stored in his cellar during the lockdown.

Lockdown has been difficult for many of France’s artisan cheesemakers as sales collapsed when markets, restaurants and workplace canteen throughout the country closed down.

One cheesemaker in the Vosges area was left with many unsold munster cheeses on his hands, so he stored some in the cellar and forgot about them.

But when Lionel Vaxelaire, who owns 25 cows and converts all their milk into the strong-smelling, soft white munster cheese, rediscovered his cheeses, he found something interesting.

They had developed a greenish-grey flowery rind and a completely new flavour.

He told local French news: “We left about 60 munsters at the bottom of the cellar. We even forgot about them a bit. After a month of maturing, we tasted one that had new flavours!

“It lies between our Munster and a Camembert type. It’s chalky inside, with a greyish, mottled flowery rind. It took all the flora of our whole raw milk and the flora of the cellar.
Continue reading “French cheesemaker accidentally creates new ‘lockdown’ cheese”

The 5 Stinkiest Cheeses in France


Why are some French cheeses so…smelly? Does a strong smell mean a strong taste? Here are some of the strongest-smelling cheeses of France.

Some cheeses have a distinctive, shall we say, aroma. And why not? Cheese is old milk, after all. But why do some cheeses have a strong smell and not others? It comes down to the way they are made.

Cheese starts as milk — cow, sheep or goat — to which cultures of bacteria are added. Certain cheeses rely heavily on brevibacterium linens (b. linens) which is also the bacteria responsible for, yes, body odor. So when someone describes a cheese as smelling like old gym socks, they’re not kidding!

B. linens thrives in moisture, which is why hard cheeses have mild odors while moister, creamier cheeses are often the strongest smelling. Not only that, some cheeses have their rinds washed throughout the aging process, keeping them moist — a perfect environment for b. linens to go forth and multiply.

And then there’s mold, the not-so-secret ingredient behind some of the world’s most odiferous cheeses. “Moldy” is not what most people consider a good smell. And when mold is put into a cheese, like the famous bleus of France, and then left in a moist cave to ripen for months… mon dieu, open the window so we can get some fresh air!

Is a strong smell the mark of a strong cheese? Not necessarily. Some cheeses, like the famous Époisses of Burgundy, have pungent odors but mild tastes. This is true of many washed-rind cheeses, where the powerful aroma comes from the rind and not the creamy interior. Blue cheeses are a different matter because the mold is throughout the cheese, giving every bite a strong flavor. Continue reading “The 5 Stinkiest Cheeses in France”

France told to eat more cheese to save dairy industry amid coronavirus

Fromagissons,” which means “Let’s act for cheese.”


The citizens of France have been told it’s their patriotic duty to eat more cheese.

After a fall in sales due to COVID-19, the dairy industry has put out a collective call for French people to increase their consumption of brie, camembert, reblochon, and more. 

According to a press release by France Terre de Lait, the French dairy industry, sales of certain cheeses in France have dropped 60%. This is largely due to the closure of markets, cheese-mongers, and restaurants, and quarantined people denying themselves their most pleasurable foods and instead only buying the basics.

Continue reading “France told to eat more cheese to save dairy industry amid coronavirus”

The end to a French cheese tradition?

Camembert

After years of lobbying, industrial producers are now allowed to make camembert with pasteurised milk. As a result, one of France’s beloved cheeses may be disappearing – for good.

In the heart of Normandy’s Pays d’Auge region, about an hour’s drive inland from the D-Day beaches on France’s northern coast, lies the 200-person village of Camembert, surrounded by white-and-brown cows grazing in lush green pastures.

It is here that, according to legend, a woman named Marie Harel sheltered a priest who, like many following the French Revolution, was given a choice: swear allegiance to the new Republic or die at the guillotine. The refractory priest elected to flee, escaping to England through Normandy, and encountering Harel along the way. To thank her for her hospitality, the priest ostensibly shared the recipe for brie, a cheese from the region around Paris, which Harel made using local Normande milk and the moulds for washed-rind Livarot, thus inventing a new cheese that, as tradition dictated, she named after the village where she made it: camembert.

While the validity of the legend is impossible to confirm, culinary anthropologist Georges Carantino maintains that it is rooted in fact.

“In any case, it evokes that there was indeed a transmission of the techniques from an area like Brie, where this type of cheese is very old, to [Pays d’Auge], where it is a much more recent addition to the landscape.”

No matter how the technique arrived, the Normandy region that had previously produced only washed-rind cheeses like Livarot or Pont l’Evêque suddenly began making bloomy-rinded cheese like brie in the 18th Century, and camembert has been inextricable from Camembert ever since.

Of course, it would be unfair to say that camembert is merely brie made in Normandy. While the cheeses are made with the same Penicillium camemberti spore and thus boast a similar downy white mould, flavour-wise, camembert exists somewhere between the milder, buttery Brie de Meaux and the rich, meaty Brie de Melun. This can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that while Brie de Meaux is made primarily with rennet fermentation and Brie de Melun with lactic fermentation, camembert is made with a bit of both – a process facilitated by the rich, raw milk of local Normande cows with which camembert should always be made, at least in the mind of a true turophile.

The result is a cheese that is rich, mushroomy and complex in flavour – and unfortunately, it may be disappearing from the nation’s culinary landscape for good.

Camembert, like many cheeses, is protected by the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (INAO), a unique French organisation that strictly governs the manufacture of 46 cheeses (and 300 wines) via the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and equivalent European Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) labels. This institution aims to protect terroir, the French notion that a product is inextricably linked to the place where it is made, from traditional manufacturing processes down to unique microorganisms in the air.

But the governing of camembert has long been more complex than most. In the 19th Century, thanks to the creation of the small wooden box in which the cheese is still sold today and the simultaneous rise of train transport, camembert became quite easy to stack and ship. As a result, it was soon enjoyed by people from all over France. Since this rise in popularity predated AOP cheese regulations by several decades, camembert fans from Anjou to the Pyrenees began making their own versions, inexorably divorcing camembert from its Norman terroir.

Today, the word camembert refers not to a specific cheese, but rather to a cheese type made the world over – in fact, it was a Quebecois camembert that was dubbed the best in the category worldwide at this year’s World Championship Cheese Contest in the US state of Wisconsin – a snub that French magazine VSD called ‘stinging’ and ‘shameful’.

Despite the loss of the word, locals did finally earn AOC status for the traditional cheese in 1983, when the INAO developed an official charter, not for ‘camembert’ but for the phrase ‘Camembert de Normandie’. The cheese, it was decided, would be obligatorily made in Normandy, with the raw milk of pastured herds of cows ‘in a process of genetic evolution’ towards the Normande breed (a rule that was modified to specify that, at first, 25%, and then, in 2017, 50% of the herd be made up of Normande cattle).

By this point, however, even Normandy camembert no longer belonged to the small, artisanal producers that had once handmade this cheese throughout the region, ladling it into moulds in five distinct layers, as tradition dictates. Industrial giants such as Lactalis had set up shop and wanted their product to sport the AOP label. The caveat? They wanted to use pasteurised milk. Continue reading “The end to a French cheese tradition?”

Cheese fans raise a stink over plans for pasteurised camembert

camembert

Surrounded by mottled brown-and-white cows basking in the Normandy spring sunshine, Patrick Mercier admits his prized raw-milk camembert doesn’t come cheap, but suggests not everyone should have to make the cheese this way.

Few foods are more emblematic of France than the pungent white pucks of camembert. But camembert lovers and producers are currently embroiled in a conflict over what constitutes the real thing.

“Other cheeses can be made with pasteurisation, so after all, why not camembert as well?” asked Mercier. Continue reading “Cheese fans raise a stink over plans for pasteurised camembert”