And there’s a good chance you’ve never actually eaten it.
Given the choice between the real deal original and a two-bit knock-off, most people would opt for authenticity. Why hang a poster of the Mona Lisa in your house when you could hang the real thing? So when it comes to Camembert cheese, Bloomberg’s Larissa Zimberoff wants you to know you’ve been living a lie – and that your chance to eat the original, authentic version of Camembert may be dwindling.
As Zimberoff explains, plenty of cheeses in the United States bear the name Camembert, but technically these cheeses are “Camembert fabrique en Normandie” – not necessarily a “knock-off,” but a style of Camembert that differs from true “Camembert de Normandie,” which has a protected designation of origin. The most significant difference between these two cheeses is the milk: PDO Camembert is made in the traditional manner with raw milk; the other Camembert uses pasteurized milk. For that reason alone, many Americans have never had true Camembert because the FDA doesn’t allow the import of raw milk cheeses that have been aged for less than 60 days as PDO Camemberts are.
Alright, fine, so you’ve been faked out by the French. What’s the big deal? Well, if you’ve been banking on trying authentic PDO Camembert after you retire to France, you may want to think again. According to Bloomberg, farmers producing the raw milk version of the cheese – as well as following all the other intricate rules necessary to be granted the PDO – are becoming far less common. Only four million of the 360 million wheels of Camembert produced each year fit the PDO and only three farmstead operators are making proper unpasteurized Camembert in Normandy.
To save Camembert, as is often the case, knowledge appears to be the key. Know the difference, and seek out raw milk Camembert suggests one expert. “To help a rare breed survive, you have to eat it,” said Francis Percival, who recently co-authored a book on the fight for real cheese entitled Reinventing the Wheel. So next time you’re in France, skip the Louvre and head to Normandy instead, where you can still experience the making of a real masterpiece first hand.