Camembert (Stabilized) Info
How can I make Camembert that lasts longer?
If you have ever made a Camembert Cheese that was perfectly ripe at 4 weeks, but a few weeks later found it had become too runny and smelled of ammonia, then this new stabilized Camembert guideline is for you.
Traditionally and still today, Camembert was made on the farm, moved to market within a few days and was taken home and consumed while still at its peak ripeness.
Today as a home cheese maker you probably make Camembert from 2 gallons of milk, yielding 4 cheeses. The first you eat when it's ready. The second you open a few days later, and it's maybe a bit better than the first. The third may be okay, but will probably be a bit pungent, and by the time you get to the last one you may find it too soft or even oozing, with a definite smell of ammonia.
If you happen to be a small farm or artisan producer, you’re likely already mindful of the need to get your cheese to the consumer in the best condition possible. This means shipping before they are truly ripe, and hoping the market or retailer has the space to finish the aging before they place them in their case. Sometimes this goes well, but often I hear from folks that it does not.
Getting the ideal cheese to market and consumers is a significant challenge for manufacturers of traditional cheese including Camembert when dealing with larger distribution networks.
Yes, cheese can be consumed outside of the optimum condition; however, defects in the cheese can be noticeable and may offer a poor representation of an otherwise fantastic cheese. These defects often include:
- Flavor: being overly ammoniacal, sulfury, or bitter
- Texture: having an overly runny paste
- Appearance: deterioration of rind color (browning)
Another important fact for small scale cheese makers is that in the US and many other countries, regulations require all raw milk cheese to be aged cold for 60 days before reaching the market. A point at which traditional Camembert would be well past its optimal condition. How can you sell raw milk Camembert that is already spoiling at 7 weeks when the law prohibits sales before 8 weeks?
Because of this dilemma a stabilized Camembert (or Brie) was developed with a longer initial ripening so it would remain in good condition for a much longer period. This gave a bigger window for the cheese to reach the market and consumers in good condition. In other words the Camembert has been stabilized.
Why does Camembert go bad so quickly?
Traditional Camembert is normally made with a Mesophilic culture, and lower temperatures in such a way that the acid development and ripening are quite fast. A traditional Camembert can be ready in as little as 4 weeks. But, this rapid acid method is also why the cheese ripens so quickly, and has such a short window of ripeness.
The shelf life of Camembert is largely a function of texture and aroma deterioration. Our goal here is stability and to increase the optimal window of ripeness for a cheese that will last longer. Since the traditional method is fundamentally fast, to slow it down we’ll need to make two fundamental changes.
First, we begin with using a higher temperature (102-104F) and a thermophilic culture, specifically a Thermophilic culture that works slower than average (TA 52). The acid development is slower, and will lead to a drained cheese at salting that is much sweeter (ie; less acidic, pH 5.2) than a traditional Camembert (pH 4.8)
Second, the pre-ripening period is only 30-40 minutes, vs 60-75 minutes for traditional Camembert, this also produces less acid development.
Both of these steps will preserve more calcium in the cheese which will create a more elastic and firmer curd. The extra strength will help the stabilized Camembert resist texture deterioration, and will require a longer ripening time of 60 plus days. This also provides a wider window to sample the cheese at its prime.
Traditional Camembert is known for its gradual ripening from the surface to center; leaving a very soft flowing paste near the surface, and a firm white center that only gradually ripens over the full aging period.
Stabilized Camembert ripens much more slowly and the texture changes all at once with minimal flow of the paste. This makes it stable for much longer.