Camembert de Normandie

Camembert de Normandie

Althought it’s hard to blame it, my camera ate all of my Camembert de Normandie (pictures), which I discovered when I went to download them. I was miffed (to say the least…), but in the end, decided that it was tough to blame my mischievous machine because I understand how hard it is to be around a perfectly ripe Camembert de Normandie and not want to wolf the whole thing down. As they would say in Paris when presented with an irresistible cheese — C’est un catastrophe, a demi-joke referring to the devastating effect it has on la ligne. (One’s figure.)

Like the genie in the bottle, once you let a soon-to-be goopy camembert out of its container, no matter how firm you think it’s gonna remain, there’s no turning back once it starts doing what comes naturally. And if you are able to resist eating the whole runny thing in one go, in France, you can get a little plastic box to store your camembert in, with little hinged plastic “walls” to keep your camembert from running. (Even though plastic isn’t the best thing to store your cheeses in; most fromageries wrap cheeses in waxed paper sheets.) I don’t buy a lot of Camembert de Normandie because it’s hard to stop eating it. But for the sake of you all, I went and bought another one, just because I like living dangerously. And what’s another catastrophe between friends?

Camembert de Normandie

Camembert de Normandie was allegedly invented by Marie Harel in 1791. Yet French author Pierre Boisard wrote a book, Camembert: A National Myth, which disputes the story. You can read the first chapter of the book here (downloadable PDF), which delves into the subject further. But there’s no dispute that Normandy is known for its outstanding cheeses, which include Livarot, Pont-l’Évêque, and the heart-shaped Neufchâtel.

Camembert de Normandie

Like Brie de Meaux, made not far from Paris, lower Normandy’s proximity to Paris helped the success of the cheese. (You can drive to lower Normandy from Paris is a little over an hour.) And like Brie de Meaux and Mont d’Or, true Camembert de Normandie is made from raw milk (lait cru), and only from raw milk. And will say so on the label. Another notation will likely be moulé à la louche or ladled by hand into the molds.

In spite of how unbelievably amazing this cheese is, the last “real” Camembert de Normandie has been threatening to go out of business in their battle against the large industrial cheesemakers, that favor pasteurized milk, whose labels don’t depict dewy milkmaids ladling milk into cheese molds. Like Brie de Meaux, and the previously mentioned Mont d’Or, any raw milk cheese that’s been aged less than 60 days can’t be imported into the United States. (Parmigiano Reggiano and Comté are raw milk cheeses, but have been aged enough to be imported.) And that leaves out true Camembert de Normandie as well.

Camembert de Normandie

However when I was on book tour last spring, at the wonderful Pasta Shop in Berkeley, to keep my energy going, they gave me tastes of various cheeses they had, and a British camembert had almost the exact same flavor as its raw milk French counterparts. So if you live in the Bay Area, stop in and grab a wheel, because it’s quite good. (Curiously, carries and ships French raw milk camembert, the website noting that for camemberts imported to the United States, the aging is extended to over 60 days.)

Camembert de Normandie

But really, the best thing to do is to come to France and grab one yourself. Even at les supermarchés, which aren’t exactly bastions of artisan foods, you can find raw milk camemberts in the dairy case. In France, a wheel of raw milk camembert will run you between €4-€6 ($5-$7.50). So if you eat as much cheese as you can in one week, the savings will pay your airfare. Although I generally prefer to buy cheese from the people at my market, when I was at the grocery store, I saw this Jort Camembert de Normandie, which a Norman friend tells me is the best of the brands. So this funky, fragrant little disk went home with me. If you buy a camembert at a cheese shop or outdoor market in France, where I recommend shopping for cheese, they will ask you when you plan to eat it, and will usually remove the top of the container and take a look at – and feel – several, in order to find the one that’s just right for you. Don’t rush this decision.

Camembert de Normandie

My camera didn’t get any, but the perfect accompaniment to a good Camembert de Normandie is an equally good baguette. This baguette with toasted grains is from Gana, one of the many bread shops that are on every street in Paris. In France, you don’t find cheeses served with jams, nuts, or dried fruits, except for special occasions or when dining in fancy restaurants. However a good, or great, Camembert de Normandie doesn’t need anything else, and my preference is just to let the cheese sit at room temperature for a while, until it gets soft and runny, then smear it on rounds of crisp-crusted baguette. Yes, it’s a cata (the diminutive of catastrophe) — but what a way to go…

Camembert de Normandie

Related Posts and Links

France’s Distinctive Cheese Are Disappearing (Huffington Post)

Fromages of Lower Normandy (Normandy Cheese Website)

Why You Should Drink White Wine with Cheese

How To Cut and Slice Cheese (Culture magazine)

Making Swiss Cheese Fondue

Camembert Cheese Labels (Pinterest)

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  • November 11, 2014 1:02pm

    I like your recommendation on eating enough cheese and to let the savings pay for the airfare to France, David. Really good advice. Love the first photo. Seriously, who can resist that ooey, gooey cheese.

  • Jackie
    November 11, 2014 1:06pm

    So simple but so delicious!

  • November 11, 2014 1:14pm

    I’m sorry that your camera ate your photos. I think we’ve all been there, but thanks for getting another one. These pictures are mouthwatering!

  • ron shapley(NYC)
    November 11, 2014 1:53pm

    Yes, the cheese is beautiful, but look at that bread !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • November 11, 2014 1:58pm

    Oh how I miss my morning tartine!

  • November 11, 2014 2:22pm

    This looks so good – I’m dying to try it!

  • November 11, 2014 2:23pm

    Do the French eat the white rind on cheeses like Camembert and Brie? I remove it, but I wasn’t sure if this is a faux pas or not.

    • November 11, 2014 2:30pm
      David Lebovitz

      That’s a good question. The general rule of thumb with eating rinds of cheese, is that you can eat it, as long as it’s not going to negatively affect the flavor of the cheese. (Particularly true of those cheese with lots of green “bloom” on them.) I eat the rinds of both those cheese you mentioned, but I’ve seen French people do both; some eat it all, and others scrape it away. There are a certain amount of people in France that don’t love strong flavors (and sometimes the exterior is slightly ammoniated, although the cheese inside is just fine) – so it’s to each their own! : )

  • November 11, 2014 3:07pm

    Wow, this looks incredible… these may be your most mouth-wateringly beautiful photos yet!!

  • November 11, 2014 5:24pm

    My mouth is absolutely watering right now. Great photographs, and a lovely little history lesson.

  • November 11, 2014 5:41pm

    That reminds me of the pictures of the apple pie I posted on my blog last week. Went I was putting the post together, I realized I didn’t have pictures of the slices themselves… sadly, I have witnesses who say my hunger was the one to blame…

  • Bebe
    November 11, 2014 5:54pm


    Perfect Camembert.

    I am amazed at those who eat Brie without taking time to let it ripen a bit. We used to put ours on top of the fridge for at least a few days.

    I am also amazed at those who glop up a whole brie with cranberry sauce at holiday time and bake it. The cheese doesn’t magically ripen in the oven and the cranberries kill its flavor anyway.

    That baguette looks fabulous. Have never seen one like that…

  • Anna
    November 11, 2014 6:12pm

    What a coincidence! I spotted a raw milk Camembert in the local Metro here in Berlin yesterday, quite by chance, and I just had to buy it. Thanks for providing some context to my indulgence.

  • Karin
    November 11, 2014 6:34pm

    I am so tempted to buy from but wondering do the cheeses really come from France?

    ….and paying $55 or 2 cheeses…not sure if I am that desperate….checking on Wholefoods or Central Market today….

  • November 11, 2014 6:39pm

    Bonjour David. Wave of homesickness oncoming… Normandy has never seemed so far away. To think I used to drive to the coast at least twice a month during my Paris years… Bon appétit ! — Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  • Diane
    November 11, 2014 6:46pm

    When I lived with a French family more than 40 years ago, i learned a trick for storing runny camembert wheels. After making the pie shaped cut into the cheese, replace in the wooden box and set on its edge in the cupboard. The cheese will natirally rest with the exposed interiot upright and won’t rin. This works until the cheese is gone. As long as you continue to make those pie shaped cuts!

  • Gina
    November 11, 2014 6:59pm

    Diane is right: I also stand mine on edge to allow the cheese to get back inside the crust.

  • Linda Hanselman
    November 11, 2014 7:00pm

    I can’t tell you the last time I had a good Camembert. Oh yes I can, Paris 2012!! Thank you for posting the link to to I plan on checking it out.

    Yes these cheese are very fat and calorie laden however as with everything else, moderation! We eat lots of soups in the fall and winter here and a delicious little bit of cheese never hurt anyone.

  • November 11, 2014 7:05pm

    Oh my – a perfect Camembert! Pure bliss!!

  • November 11, 2014 7:10pm
    David Lebovitz

    Karin and Linda: I’ve only had cheeses from once. Someone sent me a gift basket when I was living in the states, and I wasn’t hope to accept it. Not knowing it was cheese, I waiting a day or so before heading over to UPS and when I got there, they handed me a very (very) stinky box, happy that I was taking it out of their warehouse! The cheeses were quite good although it’s nice if you have a local cheese shop where you can sniff or taste before you buy. But my one experience with was positive.

  • nonie
    November 11, 2014 7:14pm

    Oh help. Not fair. Just when I was trying to hold on the calorie intake a couple of weeks longer ’til the holidays. Agree with Michelle and Ksenia. Every cell in my body wants to run to Murray’s right now. I may be in NY, but could pretend to be in Normandie?

  • Jon Johnsen
    November 11, 2014 7:16pm

    Can you compare the cheeses from Rouge et Noir, near Petaluma, California, and the French cheeses which inspired them?

    The former owners sponsored our Boy Scout Troop back in the early 1960s, and I spent many days in the hills behind the “Cheese Factory” (and wandering through the equipment and aging rooms when it was closed! )

  • November 11, 2014 7:20pm

    Good morning Little Cheese! I’ll be having your little brother for my lunch today!

  • November 11, 2014 7:54pm

    Thanks for another lovely post David.
    I au-paired in Lille about 30 years ago; Madame Grand Mère taught me how to judge a ripe Camembert by tapping the top of it, and then tapping my eyelid; they should feel the same … always works. And M Grand Père taught me to always have good unsalted butter on my bread, and then my cheese :)

  • November 11, 2014 7:58pm

    Absolutely drooling… specially with the cheese oozing out!

  • November 11, 2014 8:05pm

    In my experience Brie has to be aged and runny, or it’s tasteless, but Camembert is nice either way, although it can, it has to be said, be a little ammonia-ish if it’s too, too ripe.

    When I lived in France someone told me the secret of buying cheese in the supermarket is to buy the one with the nearest “sell-by” date, which is likely to be the ripest. And, of course, French people think nothing of removing the cheese from the box and pressing it gently to see how ripe it is.

    Which reminds me, I have some rather nice (although not raw milk) Camembert in the fridge, and it is still nearly two hours until supper time….

  • Nicole
    November 11, 2014 9:50pm

    Oh mon Dieu! I think I’ll go out right this minute to get one from our Fromagerie Store here. I am in Montréal, Canada where it is possible to easily get the same. And no problem with raw milk here!

  • Kari Vaisanen
    November 11, 2014 9:52pm

    Having lived on and off in Normandy for several years I fully share your opinions. You also mention Livarot. I always used to joke about that little cheese-laden village – you can never get lost on your way to Livarot. Just follow your nose…

  • melinda
    November 11, 2014 10:56pm

    first thing I buy when I get to France….I even have it for breakfast… desert island pick…..there is no place near me to get good raw milk cheese here in western NC, sniff

  • November 11, 2014 10:59pm

    Have you noticed your camera is getting a little heavier? Perhaps just a bit chunkier around its middle?? I can see why you would have to share with the poor fellow. Staring at running cheese without taking a taste is just pure toruture!! I’m salivating just looking at the pictures so I can imagine what it was like for him up and close.

  • Kate
    November 11, 2014 11:00pm

    It was love at first bite: Tasting gooey Camembert de Normandy on a fresh baguette at a picnic in a sunny day in Paris.
    Merci, David! Your delightfully delicious post has reminded me that 15+ years later, Camembert is still one of the first cheeses I look for at a cheese shop, at my city or wherever I am in the world.

  • Nicolette
    November 12, 2014 12:36am

    Ooh, the three essential food groups: a crusty baguette, oozing fromage, and a bottle of wine! What more could one ask out of life?!

  • Mary
    November 12, 2014 12:54am

    In February 1973 as part of a college class in Besancon a couple of other students and I went on a frigid 3-day archaeological dig out in a field where a farmer had found some bones.

    One night at dinner we were served a camembert that was really runny, just like the picture. I will never forget what the archaeologist announced in a very serious voice:

    “Un bon camembert ne se mange pas – il se boit.”

  • Wordbird
    November 12, 2014 1:08am

    It’s all true. I blame the ruination of my figure on Camembert au lait cru.
    I confess: it was all worth it!

  • Nina
    November 12, 2014 1:58am

    I love raw milk Brie and yes, sadly, it’s illegal here in the States. I make raw milk chèvre from my goats’ milk and cannot sell it. My next challenge is to try Brie or Camembert! These photos are exquisite, I wish that cheese was sitting on my table right now!

    • November 12, 2014 10:06am
      David Lebovitz

      Raw milk cheese are amazing, although that camembert that I had in Berkeley, at the Pasta Shop was excellent. So you can make good cheeses with pasteurized or thermalized milk. There was the listeria crisis back in the 80s in the US with a cheese that was supposed to be pasteurized, and in France and Switzerland (which now thermalizes their Mont d’Or cheeses), they’ve had problems as well. In France, pregnant women are advised not to eat raw milk cheeses for that reason. But most of them are very safe and although I’m not a medical professional, any food product – raw or pasteurized – can be dangerous if handled incorrectly.

  • Jason
    November 12, 2014 5:31am

    Have you tried St. Nectaire?

  • November 12, 2014 5:33am

    Spectacular pictures…my waistline is bulging just looking at them. Great post!

  • November 12, 2014 6:37am

    Two seconds after viewing that first photo and my eyes closed and I could almost taste that cheese. I can’t wait to go back and have that again.

  • November 12, 2014 6:47am

    Bonjour David, as you said a good product does not need anything else … Having said that, camembert blends well with truffle cream, with some sweet and sour apple compote and with good gingerbread (if your camembert is not perfect, it will be enhanced). I sometimes, make gingerbread croutons (with oil, butter and a drizzle of sugar), grind them, deep the camembert in beaten eggs then gingerbread powder ( like pain perdu, French toast) and bake it.

    With some mesclun, a salad dressing with calvados, it makes a wonderful starter …
    PS : I think you can switch to pears as well.

    To make fun when I go to the cheesemonger, I often ask my camembert for 8.32 PM and they jokingly answer they have found one for 8.34….

  • Gavrielle
    November 12, 2014 8:38am

    Stunning pictures. But four to six euros? Whimper! Our artisan cheeses in New Zealand are excellent, but they’re mostly around 30 euros/kilo. Goat cheeses, because of their scarcity (most caome from tiny little herds) can easily top 60 euros/kilo

    • November 12, 2014 10:00am
      David Lebovitz

      I was talking to a baker, about the incredibly low-prices they charge for baguettes and croissants (the average profit on a €1 baguette for a bakery is only 30 cents) – and he said it was because if they charged more, people would go elsewhere. I think it’s the same with cheese in France; there are so many available, prices stay at what we would consider in the “reasonable” range. But if you ask French people, they would say that a lot of cheeses are expensive (to them.) And even I was shocked one day when a went to a different bakery than usual and the baguette was a whopping €1,40. There are still some bargains in Paris! : )

  • November 12, 2014 2:03pm

    Somehow, I took (apparently false) comfort in the fact that old food ways were treasured and preserved in countries like France.

    Le Sigh, America’s great gift to the world – industrial food.

  • November 12, 2014 5:00pm

    I think your camera was at my house yesterday. All the cremont cheese I recently bought has disappeared.

  • MB
    November 12, 2014 5:26pm

    Mmmmm. I can almost taste it from looking at the photos….

    One of my favorite cheeses from France is (or might be was) Le Lingot du Quercy (from the Southwest). Ever try it? I have not seen it in awhile, and hope they are still making it in that area.

  • Doug Wagner
    November 14, 2014 12:59am

    In Florida we can buy raw milk cheese at farm markets, but it must be labeled ” not for human consumption”!

    • Karin
      November 14, 2014 1:10am

      Yeah and all of France is going to die eating raw cheeses…..what a crock!

  • November 14, 2014 6:22pm

    These pictures are making me craving cheese and french baguettes!

  • George
    November 14, 2014 6:29pm

    Last September while visiting Normandy, we stopped for a beer and cheese. The camembert we had was cut into 1/4 inch wide slices, floated in cream in a small skillet, and quickly broiled until quite warm to browning. Served with toasted baguette slices of course. Sitting on their patio on a sunny but brisk afternoon, overlooking the Channel, with good beer and great cheese. Nice day.

  • November 14, 2014 7:21pm

    looks so yummie :D

  • November 15, 2014 7:36am

    that top photo of the cheese coming out everywhere just, like, shattered my evening’s contentment. i will never be happy again until i am eating that cheese.

  • Emily Rader
    November 16, 2014 12:35am

    The camembert pictured here looks wonderful. Wish I could get some! When I lived in Paris I used to buy Le Petit camembert, and I loved it. Here in Berkeley I now buy Fermier camembert (at The Cheese Board or Andronico’s), which is imported from Rambouillet, France, and it’s so delicious and flavorful that I can’t even tell it’s not pasteurized!

  • LWood
    November 16, 2014 8:03am

    While I would prefer a trip to Paris to save $$ on on my cheese budget, last year I was very happy to find a raw milk alternative to Mont d’or called Rush Creek Reserve (from Uplands cheese in WI). It’s available this time of year in the U.S. but it is an investment.

  • November 16, 2014 7:22pm

    Viva la gooey stinky cheese!

  • November 16, 2014 8:15pm

    Since posting my comment, we have booked ourselves a short break in Normandy in a couple of weeks’ time – can’t wait!

  • Vanessa
    November 17, 2014 6:15pm

    Hi david, really hope you’ll answer my question! or is anyone is able to, please feel free to comment as well :)
    I made baked Camembert with Margaret Rivers (Australian) cheese and it melted easily into a gooey tasty mess. However, when I gave it a go with President Camembert cheese, it refused to melt and instead turned into a semi-sticky-rubbery cheese that tasted like tofu. Same type of cheese – different results. Can anyone guess as to why the results were different? Same cooking time and temperature.

    • November 17, 2014 6:54pm
      David Lebovitz

      President cheese is a cheese that’s industrially made, and won’t behave (ie: melt) like a real camembert. If you taste one alongside an artisanal cheese, you’ll notice the difference as well. I don’t know what Margaret Rivers cheese is, but a camembert (like the one shown) will melt beautifully. Even without heat! : )

  • Nancy
    November 17, 2014 10:42pm

    My favorite cheese. I must have some. But where to buy in NY?

    • November 18, 2014 10:12am
      David Lebovitz

      Because the USDA doesn’t allow raw milk cheeses to be imported into the United States that are aged less than 60 days, Camembert du Normandie is generally not available. Murray’s in New York has one, which is pasteurized, and, which I linked to, has a camembert they say is aged longer, for shipping. Best to go into a shop in New York, like Murray’s (or Bedford Cheese, in Brooklyn) and ask – and sniff!

  • Anne
    November 20, 2014 12:27am

    This makes me want to hop a plane to Paris right now. Ugh, love me some stinky cheese!