This Wiki Article is a generic recipe for making Brie/Camembert in 3 weeks, faster than traditional recipes. Camembert is the Normandie version of the almost 1000 year older and thus more established Brie from Île-de-France. Brie and Camembert are made the same way, the only differences being i) size and ii) Brie’s as being larger wheels are normally retailed as wedges versus Camembert’s where the whole cheese is sold.
A good B/C is white and velvety or downy on the outside and soft, smooth on the inside. Notably, the rind can and should be eaten as part of the B/C experience, which should also feature a stick of crusty French Baguette, and a cup or two of red wine, accordion music is essential, backgammon optional.
B/C are not beginner cheeses to make and require some specialized equipment and ingredients.
- Hoops: Professional Camembert AOC sized hoops are 10 cm inside diameter, made from food grade plastic, and have large holes on sides. Normally 2 US gallons/8 liters of whole milk will make 5 Camemberts, thus you will need five hoops. Note, most bloomy rind cheeses are round disks as the pressure distributes more evenly in a round shape than square or heart shaped making it less likly to collapse due to own weight as it ripens.
- Mats: For draining curds in hoops on, unless the weave is very course, the curd won’t fall through it, as it will dehydrate and build up a skin against the mat.
- Ripening Container: To maintain high hummidity micro-climate during ripening phases.
Ingredients – Metric
Makes ~3 standard 11 cm diameter Camembert Cheeses:
- 4 litres fresh whole cow’s milk.
- Pasteurized preferred, if using then add diuted Calcium Chloride, amount as per manufacturers directions or your experience.
- Raw milk – B/C has some special safety concerns especially if using raw milk because the acidity decreases (pH increases) dramatically due to the white mould which can allow pathogens to survive and then grow when the pH increases during ripening. To mitigate this Camembert curing rooms must be cleaned and sanitized regularly.
- Adding cream is optional and will result in a more solid – less oozy cheese.
- Mesophilic Starter Culture, common choices manufactured freeze dried Direct Vat Innoculation are:
- Danisco’s Choozit MM100 or MM101. Optionally can add pinch of Danisco’s Choozit MD89 to give it extra butter flavour and eyes.
- Danisco’s Choozit MA011 – Has lactis and cremoris like MM100/101 but is missing the diacetylactis.
- Danisco’s Choozit MA4001 – Combination of lactis, cremoris, diacetylactis like MM100/101 but also has a thermophilus which in my opinion doesn’t contribute much and goes to waste in a B/C.
- Flora Danica – i) Results in very buttery flavour like commercially made B/C (however if using goat’s milk, that quality stands up to goat’s sharp qualities), ii) results in some small eyes, iii) adds body by slowing down rate of movement of food for the mold, iv) slower acidification, and v) doesn’t ever really get down to pH of 4.5-4.6, as tends to quit at 4.8 or so. FD slows down p candidum growth. If using FD, have to pre-ripen milk with FD (normally 01.-0.2 pH drop) before adding rennet and keep the room really warm, or adjunct with normal Lactococcus.
- Probat-222 / Aromatic B – Leuconocstoc m. cremoris to the blend which makes long colony chains that creates a thicker paste in the finished cheese. It produces more CO2 and it also adds more of a diacetyl (buttery) flavor. Probat-222 and Aromatic B are the same except the ratios and the bacterial strains are different.
- Note: Most store bought commercial B/C is stabilized which uses a different process and only thermophilic, no mesophilic starter culture.
- Non manufactured is 60 ml of concentrated buttermilk starter.
- Rennet, your choice of type, amount as per your experience or package directions, diluted in ~125 ml cool water.
- Note: As Penicillium candidum (a fungi) is used to break down the paste of the cheese, the rennet amount and flocculation time is less important than with other cheese types as you are not relying primarily on rennet for proteolysis in the cheese.
- Dry Salt.
- Penicillium candidum to develop white bloomy rind and correct paste. Penicillium candidum uses mostly lactate for food (meaning lactic acid), and requires the appropriate moisture, PF, and pH for that food to move through the cheese so it is consumed. Common options are:
- Piece of rind from a B/C cheese as an innoculant. Option #1 is to make a morge, place rind in room temp water, mash it into as many small pieces as possible and stir vigorously with a fork, the water should go milky and cloudy, then add morge to milk. This is non-optimal due to lumps and as unknown strength and unknown bacteria. Option #2 is to make the the slurry, then add it into 100-200ml of clean cool water with 2% salt, let mix stand for at least 12 hours at room temp, then use or refrigerate. Use by filtering through a sanitized strainer/screen into a spray bottle and spray on top of the cheese. This spray is more effective and active and you can keep it and use the spay on future cheeses for 2-3 weeks.
- Manufactured freeze dried Penicillium candidum VS.
- Manufactured freeze dried Penicillium candidum Neige – agressive faster blooming and high proteolytic activity. Note, will result in nice wrinkly rind if used in combination with Geo 17 under the right initial drying/salting conditions.
- Note: If spraying on freeze dried Penicillium candidum, 16 hours before use melt 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp sugar in 8 oz water then dilute in 1/8 tsp Penicillium Candidum, pour into atomizer, and place in fridge to reactivate before use.
- Optional: Geotrichum candidum, common options are:
- Manufactured freeze dried Geo 15 or Geo 17.
- Additional notes on Aroma cultures Penicillium candidum and Geotrichum candidum:
- Both develop the rind formation and they are responsible to the lipolysis and proteolysis processes (breakdown and modification of proteins and fats) which is what makes the B/C ripe.
- Different strains will change ripening time as some are more agressive than others.
- Optional: Some French cheese makers spray the cheese with unpasteurized beer or wine to add additional flavour and micro-organisms.
Curd – Making
- Pour milk into stockpot, place stockpot in water bath (sink or larger stockpot on stove) and warm slowly to 31-32°C/88-90°F.
- Add starter culture and thoroughly stir in. Optional, if adding Penicillium candidum and Geotrichum candidum to milk, do so here by stirring in. Cover and set aside to ripen.
- At ~90 minutes or pH of 6.4, add diluted rennet, stir in, cover and set aside for curd to set.
- Cut curd into 1-2 cm/0.5-1 inch diamonds when time to cut using either time method (~60 min), clean break check, of flocculation test using a multiplier of 5-6.
- Traditional Camembert de Normandie AOC is made with raw cow’s milk. The curd is scooped uncut with a ladle which has the identical size of the hoop itself. The curd is brought to the hoop, lowered into it and in a twist of the ladle’s handle the curd gently switches from the ladle surface to the hoop’s bottom without falling and breaking. 3-4 scoops fill up a hoop to the top. After an hour there is enough space to add one more scoop and that’s it. They may cut it from time to time to accommodate hard curd set but traditionally they don’t have to. Moisture content is very important for bloomy rinds, moisture content variables are cutting curd, salting, drying, temperature, acidity, rennet strength and the mineral contents of milk. In the traditional recipe a spontaneous natural slow drainage is taking place and the cheese is turned and spends 24-48 hours in a drying room with fans and coolers. It is salted (which helps expel more whey out of it) and sprayed with ripening cultures. You can certainly do that but you will just need a bit more practice to get there. They have perfected the rate in which moisture is expelled from the cheese and crafted how the acidity curve will play. Doing the basic cutting at home is the simplest way and I would suggest to start with it.
- Let cut curds rest and settle to bottom of stockpot @ same temperature for 5 minutes for them to release some whey and “heal”.
- Stir cut curds gently for a few seconds (cut any cubes that seem overly large and above the average cube size). Then let cut curds rest for another 5 minutes to release more whey, firm up, and sink to the bottom of vat.
Curd – Forming
- Remove whey down to level of curds with closed ladle or cup or bowl.
- Gently ladle cut curds with minimal whey into camembert hoops on mats on a draining board at room temperature in 4-5 ladles, pH should be at 6.1. Level top of curds such that all are even/same height.
- Use perforated ladle transfer cut curds as it will enable whey to drain before placing in hoops.
- As remove cut curds, continually remove whey while ladling out cut curds, push a kitchen strainer or large cheese mold from another cheese to create a little “sink” in the vat where only whey can enter but curd can’t get in, and remove whey with a cup.
- In traditional Camembert making, often the cheesemakers wait up to 1 hour to put the final scoop in.
- After gravity draining ~1/2 hour, poke fingers down middle and around perimeter deep into curds to reduce number of pockets of whey and to reduce gaps in side/perimeter of cheese.
- After gravity draining ~1 hour, place mats on top of hoops, quickly turn the mat-hoop-mat sandwich without curds slipping out and place back down, do not refill hoops.
- Peel back top mat carefully so don’t tear surface, rinse-wash and replace.
- Repeat above two steps every 2 hours for 5 hours and then occasionally until the pH is 4.6-4.9 or the cheeses are about 1/3 original height and have shrunk away from sides of hoop. This should be 8-12 hours after adding culture, start of cheese making.
- The curds do need to drain naturally (not pressed), but rapidly. The cheese should be at around its final size within a few short hours. Final size should be 1/3 to 1/4 of the total height of what you have originally ladled.
- Draining is very important in B/C making for i) subsequent mould development, ii) to prevent slip skin, and iii) to prevent accelerated ammoniation before the cheese is ripe.
- Excessive whey draining time in hoops results in the whey acidifying the curd too much and prevents the cheese from reaching its correct acidity in the right time. This can result in problems during aging such as poorly knit curd, gas formation or early ammoniation.
- Trapped whey that does not come out in the drying phase can cause slip skin.
- Remove cheeses from hoops and cover with light/thin layer of dry salt (6 – 9 grams/cheese, approx 1 teaspoon) by shaker or by rubbing the salt on all surfaces to inhibit the growth of micro-organisms and hence slow further acid development.
- Salting is a major factor in i) draining the cheese of whey, ii) creating a rind, and iii) causing the mould to bloom.
Ripening – Blooming
- Place salted cheeses on food grade mats in cool drying room or Ripening Container @ 12-15 C/ F & 95% humidity for 5-10 days to establish your Penicillium candidum and Geotrichum candidum (if using) during which the bloom should cover the entire cheese and the rind will fully develop. B/C should be aged together where they can cross-transfer mold to each other. The cheeses need to be set on an open mesh cheese mat which needs to be set atop a surface that is elevated beyond the bottom of the aging container to enable i) free air flow to the bottom of the cheese, and ii) free flow of drained whey to the bottom of the container (or drying in the air). The cheese should never sit in its own whey as this will i) give rise to unwanted yeast contamination or unwanted molds and ii) result in poor mold bloom as mold’s don;t like to grow with their feet in water.
- Optional, if spraying on Penicillium candidum mould spores, do so after 1 day in cool room using an atomizer, surface of cheeses should not be wet.
- Every 1-2 days until bloom starts, clean hands and turn the cheeses.
- Once the Penicillium candidum starts to bloom, every 1-2 days day, pick up the cheese and lightly tap the mold down and rub it in with two fingers. This will i) help create a lower height bloom and thus finer more dense rind which is considered a very desirable quality, and ii) it will help transfer the bacteria evenly on the rind. With your hands full of bacteria from that cheese, move on to the next and continue until all cheeses are done.
- Under ideal temperature and humidity, furry white mould (Penicillium candidum mycelium) will cover the cheese and turn gray as the mould forms spores.
- Note, if making large diameter wheels like Brie, they are more fragile and prone to breaking, thus tap down mold rub it on one side and circumference, then turn cheese carefully and repeat on the other side.
Ripening – Paste Development
- Move cheeses to cold aging room @ 3 C/45 F & 85-90% humidity to ripen the interior of the B/C. Every few days, gently press the cheeses, when they feel soft enough, consume.
- If they are soft before they are about 3 weeks old it is likely that the outside had ripened too fast and the inside is not nearly ready. In this case reduce humidity and move them to a cooler storage. This way you prevent ammoniation while you still let the enzymes do their work deeper into the paste of the cheese. Think of it as cooking with too high heat setting which will burn your food on the outside before the inside gets cooked. If it looks like it is browning before time you don’t eat the raw chicken . . . you reduce the flame and let it cook a bit longer in a temp that won’t continue burning the outside.
- For home production and consumption, wrapping camemberts like the wraps found on commercially produced camemberts is not required. Instead keep them in the aging container.
- Wrapping is done to commercially made camemberts when they are ready to be sold and shipped to markets. Most commercially made camemberts are wrapped and shipped at 10 days use Ultra Filtration process and the cheeses are partially stabilized so that they no longer ripen.
- Wrapping for non-commercially made B/C is a contentious subject. One camp says it is not required, the other that it is for aging B/C. While in theory wrapping is supposed to reduce the amount of air exchange and trap humidity and microorganisms close to the surface, in reality if wrapped while still aging, it i) makes the cheese ammoniate faster and ripen on the outside well before the inside is ready, and ii) it causes P candidum to recede and the Geo to overgrow; which suffocates the cheese.
- Note, Camembert de Normandie (AOC) are not wrapped for shipping until they are at least two weeks old.
- If wrapping for commercial shipping and retail, wrap with double layered B/C specific wraps or porous cellophane, do not use wax paper.
- At ~2 weeks age B/C’s are “affiné” (refined).
- At ~3 weeks age they are “à point” which is when at room temperature, the pate is runny or when the pH increases to near 7.0 or above, especially on the surface. You can test this when in cheese cave by gently pressing the cheese with a finger. Make a fist with your hand, and press the area between thumb and forefinger, if cheese has that consistency when cold it will be “à point”. Alternatively press your eye ball to understand the consistency.
- After ~4 weeks age, the smell of ammonia will become apparent while the creamy golden interior will become ever-more liquid. This is the preferred age of B/C snobs. But eventually, even the hardiest of B/C-lovers will concede defeat to an odor that is “not far removed from wet gym kit that has been allowed to fester undisturbed inside a plastic bag for more than a week”. If the cheese reaches this stage, it should be thrown out, or buried.
- If want to take longer to age then i) cut the curd smaller and drain longer to get a drier cheese, and ii) age at colder temperature.
- If want to take shorter to age then i) air dry the cheese for a couple of days, and ii) age initially warmer 55F for 10-15 days before moving to colder storage.
- General cheese making defects are detailed in several Wiki: Defects articles such as Coagulation, Surface, Aroma, Body, and Flavour.
- Defects and problems making Pencillium candidum bloomy white mold type cheeses are detailed in the Wiki: White Mould Defects, Blooming and in the Wiki: White Mould Defects, Ripening articles.
Note, Penicllium candidum will infect other types of cheeses in same cave, but if your other cheeses have a good rind, effect will be minimal and any growth can easily be wiped off. P candidum needs a fairly moist and permeable/loose substrate to really grow.