Camembert

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Camembert one of the most famous of the French soft cheeses, belongs to the Vallée d’Auge in the department of Orne, where the village Camembert gave it its name. That is still the home of true Camembert, although ‘Camembert’ is now manufactured worldwide.

The making of good cheeses at Camembert was mentioned as early as 1708, but Rance (1989) believes that the cheeses made there then were not closely similar to the Camembert of modern times; they were smaller, brownish, and undistinguished.

Although some of the details are obscure, it seems clear that a certain Marie Harel was responsible for creating Camembert as we know it, at the end of the 18th century. She introduced changes in the method of making the cheeses and also began to use larger moulds, the size still familiar. It may be that the new cheeses were not known as Camembert until Napoleon III was presented with one of them in the middle of the 19th century, asked where it came from, and ruled that it should be known by that name. Boisard (2003) is enlightening on the development of the myth of Camembert’s creation.