Camembert with a glass of kriek, a Belgian cherry beer based on lambic. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
STEPHANIE ZONIS focuses on good foods and the people who produce them.
Last Updated March 2012
Enjoying Camembert And Brie
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Enjoying Your Cheese
Buy Camembert and Brie when you need them. Neither cheese is a long “keeper,” even with refrigeration. Gilles of Artisanal Premium Cheese believes that a perfectly ripe, raw milk Brie or Camembert may have a life span of only two or three days. Even the pasteurized versions of these cheeses need to be consumed with some speed. iGourmet.com, which sells both cheeses, suggests consumption within seven days of receipt.
The cheeses are especially perishable once they’re cut into. Once a wheel of Brie or Camembert is cut, most sources agree that the cheese won’t age any further.
- Although we usually fail to recognize this, cutting a wheel of cheese for the first time is a significant event in the cheese’s life.
- Gilles of Artisanal compares a cheese rind to human skin. When the integrity of the rind or skin is challenged, through cutting a cheese or, in the case of a person, a wound, the integrity of the interior of the cheese (or person) is also challenged.
Storing The Cheese
Store Camembert and Brie in the refrigerator, but take them out an hour before you need them (if you’re not cooking with them). For a cheese board or cheese course, you want to serve Camembert and Brie with the chill off, as both will have much more flavor and better texture at room temperature.
Eating The Cheese
Steven Jenkins describes the taste of a true, raw milk Brie or Camembert as “simultaneously fried-eggy, garlicky, nutty, truffle-like and mushroomy,” and adds that both will “melt on your tongue with a sensuous feel” that factory-made cheeses cannot hope to replicate. Gilles of Artisanal comments that neither cheese should be too strong or pungent. He agrees with Jenkins’ comments about a mushroomy taste and notes that he detects almost a hay-like hint in the taste of both cheeses.
Brie and Camembert are not for dieters; both are high-fat cheeses, which is part of what makes them taste good (fat is a major carrier of flavor).
Camembert And Brie With Wine
- If you like to pair your cheeses with wine, Camembert and Brie are traditionally served with reds, although there is some disagreement about the type of red for the type of cheese. Steven Jenkins believes that Brie calls for a “big” red wine but prefers to match Camembert with a “Gamay or Pinot Noir.”
- Other sources are less specific, claiming that either cheese is a fine partner to almost any red, including Cabernets or Zinfandels. For more festive occasions, I’ve seen Camembert matched with a good Champagne. Of course, serving these cheeses with wine isn’t a must; they can be enjoyed in their own right, by themselves or with good fruits of the season.
Brie and apples: a delicious combination. Brie available at iGourmet.com.
Camembert And Brie With Beer & Cider
The cheeses pair well with a broad variety of beers: lagers, pale ales, pilsners, porters and fruit ales such as Belgian lambics and krieks.
Since the cheeses are delicious with fresh apples or pairs, it isn’t surprising that a glass of crisp, hard apple or pear cider is an excellent partner.
Learning More About Camembert And Brie
Although I’d like to suggest a field trip to France to enable you to discover more about genuine Camembert and Brie, I understand that budgetary and time constraints may be a challenge. Instead, a knowledgeable cheese retailer can truly be your best guide and teacher.
Given that real Camembert is unavailable in the U.S. and that the pasteurized substitutes are bland indeed, someone with experience in cheese might be able to suggest a tastier alternative. Ask questions and by all means, taste the cheese if possible.
Don’t be afraid to go elsewhere if you need to. You deserve the best in cheese, whether it’s a new variety, or, like the cheeses discussed above, a true classic.
Go To The Article Index Above
Cheese Primer, by Steven Jenkins (Workman Publishing, New York City: 1996)
Gilles of Artisanal Premium Cheese, New York City
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