If you have ever confused camembert with brie, you are not alone. The reason for that is that the two cheeses are made using what is essentially the same recipe.
Among what separates them is their size – brie is much larger, which is why it is usually sold in wedges.
Another thing that distinguishes the two, visually, is that camembert comes in a wooden box. This wasn’t always the case. In fact, it’s thought the practice started just over 120 years ago, when French exporters began to want to transport the cheese to other markets.
At home, it gained further notoriety when it became part of French soldiers’ supplies during the first world war.
It has been around much longer, however.
A farmer in Normandy named Marie Harel is credited with creating camembert. Although the essence of the cheese we know today had been around since the 1600s, she took advice from a priest she was sheltering in her farm during the French revolution. He came from the region of Brie, outside Paris, and passed on his knowledge of its production process.
Hence the similarity between camembert and brie.
The final difference between the two is down to what the French call le terroir – that is, the characteristics of the local area that you can taste in a product.
I brought a camembert back from my trip to France a couple of weeks back. It’s been ripening in the fridge since then. It gives to the touch in the centre, which tells me it’s ready to eat.
The smell is the other thing that tells me it’s ripe. In fact, it’s telling me I’ll need to tuck into it over the weekend – before le terroir becomes la terreur.