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Camembert

March 1, 2010
Camembert

A wheel of home produced Camembert

Making a Camembert style cheese is a good next step once you’ve had some experience with easier cheeses like Paneer or Cream Cheese. Pay careful attention to the maturation conditions as you need a precise combination of humidity and temperature to achieve an impressive looking bloomy rind. Here’s all the equipment, ingredients and instructions you need:

Equipment:

  • 10L Pot / Double Boiler. A double boiler is ideal as it prevents the milk from scorching. A copper pot is also good as it maintains a good steady all over temperature.
  • 4 x PVC Camembert hoops 10-11cm in diameter and about 10cm high. Pieces of plastic drain-pipe with roughly 15 x 5mm holes drilled evenly around will suffice.
  • 2 x Bamboo mats for draining. They need to be big enough for the four hoops to sit on without hanging over the edge.
  • Good quality plastic ageing mat
  • Thermometer
  • Long blade knife or spatula for cutting curds
  • Slotted Serving Spoon
  • 2 x Wooden boards – again, big enough to accommodate all four Camembert hoops. These will be used to turn/flip the cheeses.

 Ingredients:

  • 6.5l of milk and another 200ml for the starter. Use full cream, organic, un-homogenised if available – the creamier the milk, the creamier your cheese will be.
  • ½  teaspoon of Camembert Culture / Mould Blend
  • 2ml of Rennet
  • 2ml of Calcium Chloride (this is optional – it’s not required if you’re using un-homogenised milk)
  • Cheese Salt (you can use salt flakes but it must be uniodised)

Method:

Step 1: Making A Prepared Starter

Note: This is an optional step that can be carried out the day before. An alternative is to skip this stage and add a DVS culture to the milk in Step 2

 Boil then cool 200ml of milk, once cool add ½ teaspoon of Camembert culture / mould blend and stir in thoroughly. Cover and leave for 12 – 24 hours at a temperature of 25 – 30ºC, a warm spot in the kitchen should be fine. The starter is ready once it has a consistency of yoghurt.

Step 2: Ripening The Milk

Using the pot / double boiler, heat 6.5 litres of milk to 32ºC – if you’re not using a double boiler it’s important to keep stirring the milk to prevent it from scorching. Once the milk has reached 32ºC you can optionally add 2ml of Calcium Chloride diluted in 20ml of water (you only need to do this if you’re using homogenised milk). Now add the 200ml starter prepared from the day before and stir thoroughly. Cover and leave for about 75 minutes to ripen. Keep the temperature of the milk at 32ºC during this time, this might be tricky if you’re not using a double boiler – an easy option is to fill a sink with hot water a couple of degrees above 32ºC and place the pot in it.

Keeping the milk at a steady temperature

Keeping the milk at a steady 32ºC

Step 3: Curd Formation

In 20ml of water dissolve 2ml of Rennet liquid then pour over the milk. You need to cover as much of the surface as possible – using a syringe is a good way to achieve this. Once your Rennet solution has been added gently stir the milk for a couple of minutes then cover and leave to sit for 60 minutes or until you get a clean break. Don’t stir the milk during this time as it will hinder the curd formation. Again, you need to ensure the milk maintains a temperature of 32ºC during this part of the process.

Step 4: Cutting then Stirring the Curd 

To test for a clean break, slide a knife into the curd at an angle then use your finger or the side of the blade to lift the curd slightly. If it breaks cleanly with the whey running back into the crack/split you made with the knife then you have a clean break.

Use a long knife or spatula to cut the curds into rough 2cm cubes. Keeping the blade at an angle at all times (you don’t want to cut straight down into the curd mass as you won’t end up with cubes) make some vertical cuts first 2cm apart from one side of the pot to the other. Now make some horizontal cuts 2cm apart again and inserting the blade at an angle. When done you’ll have a criss-cross pattern of cuts across the top of the curd mass at which point you need to let the curds sit for 30 minutes.

Cut Curds

Stirring the cut curds

Stir the curds by turning over gently for about 3 minutes – you can use your hand to do this but make sure it’s clean and sanitised. While doing this, keep an eye out for curds bigger than 2cm x 2cm – you can slice the larger curds at this stage if you find any. Now let the curds sit for 20 minutes maintaining a 32ºC temperature. Repeat this stage two more times.

Use a ladle to scoop out about half the whey then give the curds another gentle stir to stop them from matting together.

Step 5: Filling the Molds

Place one of the bamboo mats on a board and cover with greaseproof paper then place the four hoops on top. Use the slotted spoon to gradually transfer the curds from the pot to the hoops filling each one evenly. You should have enough curd matter to fill each hoop just short of the top. Once done, leave to drain for 20 minutes. – It’s a good idea to carry out this part of the process over the kitchen sink as a lot of whey will drain out from the moulds.

Filling Hoops

Filling the hoops with curds

Place another sheet of greaseproof paper on top of the hoops then the second bamboo mat and finally your second board. Hold the top and bottom boards firmly and flip over in one quick smooth motion then leave to sit for 1 hour. You will need to repeat this process 5 more time n.b. turn the cheese hourly for the next 5 hours. You can remove the greaseproof paper after the first and second turns as the bamboo mats will keep the cheese intact.

Leave to set overnight covered with a tea towel.

3 Wheels of Cheese

3 Wheels of Cheese fresh out of the moulds

The following morning, remove the cheeses from the hoops, place back on a bamboo mat then lightly sprinkle with the cheese salt and let stand for 15 – 20 minutes. Flip the cheeses over to sprinkle the other side with cheese salt and let stand for another 15 – 20 minutes. Cover the cheeses with paper towel and lave to dry at room temperature for the next 24 hours.

Place some paper towel in the bottom of your plastic containers then place the plastic aging mat (cut to size) on top of the paper towel. Place the cheeses inside the containers, evenly spaced – place the lid on the container but leave it ajar as air will need to flow into the ageing environment. The containers must now be left in ideal aging conditions which is essentially 12ºC and 95% humidity. A wine fridge is suitable as far as temperature is concerned – you can use a refrigerator but the colder temperature means the aging and development of the bloomy white rind will take a lot longer. You can increase the humidity inside the containers by placing some saturated paper towel next to the cheeses or even some slices of tomato – take care not to get drips of water on the cheese when doing this.

Leave the cheese for 8 – 10 days turning daily – you’ll notice that a white mould will gradually develop forming the rind of the cheese but it may take a few days before you begin to see this.

Once the cheese is completely covered in white mould, place each one in the centre of some cheese wrapping and fold each corner onto the cheese until it is completely covered. Place the wrapped cheeses back into the plastic container, folded side on the bottom, and leave to age for a further 3 – 4 weeks at 12ºC and 95% humidity.

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