French cooking Basse Normandie / Normandy

Origin and recipes : let's taste the camembert ?

It is impossible to imagine a french cheese platter without the famous Camembert, so well known in the world that, along with the baguette, the red wine and the beret, it is one of the symbols of the French. King of the cheese platters, it is more contested if we take the cheeses as a whole, including those used in cooking, since in sales it is behind the grated Emmenthal and the mozzarella. That said, nearly 30,000 tons are still sold each year in France. And that's normal, it's delicious!


A history of Camembert : 

Camembert is a village in Normandy

Cheese has been made in Normandy since the dawn of time. And it is enough to see the green and fatty grass not to be surprised that it is so appreciated by the cows, in particular the Norman cows, with their long eyelashes and their pretty brown spots which give a fat and creamy milk. At least as much as it is divided into 5 departments, Normandy is also divided into "pays". Corners of Normandy with their character. Among them, there is the Pays d'Auge. It crosses Lower Normandy from North to South. From the Channel Sea to Chambois or Exmes. It's a bit like the postcard we have in mind when we think about Normandy: greenery, half-timbered houses, apple trees and... The rain! But joyful and invigorating as it knows how to be in this beautiful region. 

The entrance to the village of Camembert in the Orne / By BéatriceLouise - Personal work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

In the Pays d'Auge, is located the village of Camembert. Yes! Camembert is a commune. A commune of the department of Orne which counts today 176 inhabitants, that is to say if it is small! You can see hills, hedges, the pretty old church of Notre Dame (XVI and XVIII century), and a stele dedicated to Marie Harel. And it is normal since it is here in Camembert that Marie Harel would have invented this cheese which took the name of the village and made it famous in the whole world. 


A meeting during the French Revolution : 

Marie Harel: Statue of Vimoutiers offered by the Americans to replace the one that was destroyed during the Battle of Normandy in 1944 / By Marc Noordink -, CC BY 2.0,

Legend has it that the current recipe is the work of Marie Harel, a young farmer who, in 1791, when the French Revolution was going badly for priests, took in one on her farm, Father Charles Jean Bonvoust, a native of Brie, a region of France also well known for its cheese. Marie hosted the priest on her farm to keep him from being imprisoned or worse, at a time when the French Revolution was hunting down priests who refused to swear their loyalty to the Constitution, that is, before their loyalty to the Pope. But let's leave the religious quarrels of the time and go back to Camembert. Father Bonvoust observed Marie at work, especially when she was making cheese, as had always been done in Camembert. And he gave her a trick to do it differently. He knew what he was talking about because he came from the Brie region, an old region around Paris where the famous Brie cheese was already being made, which resembles Camembert, only wider and flatter. And Marie listened to the priest and slightly modified her recipe while keeping the base she had inherited from the past. 

The result: a cheese with a strong but flowery taste, which could be chalky or runny. A cheese so good that she sold more and more of it

On that note; Emperor Napoleon III passed through Normandy. 

Marie Harel's delicious cheese ended up on Emperor Napoleon III's table in the 1850s when, while traveling through France, he stopped in Argentan, a town just outside of Camembert. Having tasted and enjoyed the cheese, the emperor requested that it be delivered regularly to his Tuileries Palace in Paris. This was all it took for many Parisians, curious and gastronomic, to start tasting this cheese appreciated by the Emperor and to put it on their table. Camembert cheese, which became Camembert, had two additional advantages: it came easily by train from nearby Normandy, and from the start it was not too expensive. 

Portrait of Napoleon III, a fan of Camembert, in the uniform of a major general in his large cabinet in the Tuileries (oil on canvas by Hippolyte Flandrin, 1861)


The Great War and the Cinema

Already popular, what made it famous in France was the First World War when it was officially added to the food ration of French soldiers. Back home, our "poilus" (surname of french soldiers during the War) continued to eat it, even if they had other cheeses at their disposal, because with between 1250 and 2300 kinds of cheese, France is THE country of cheese. 

The 30's propelled it to the cinema, and we often see it in films until the 50's. It is this cheese that was served to the American GI's and to the British or Canadian soldiers when they landed... In Normandy. From this time, the postcard of the Frenchman with his beret, his baguette under his arm, tasting camembert with a good glass of wine, dates back to this period. 


Camembert is losing fans. 

With more than 30,000 tons, it continues to be sold, but it is less and less appreciated since sales have decreased by 10% in a few years. It's a shame because it's really delicious, especially when it's farmhouse. 

Un camembert / Image par Pro Video/ShutterstockUn camembert / Image par Pro Video/Shutterstock

History, heritage, gastronomy : discover our norman selection

How to taste a camembert 

First of all, choose it from Normandy!

The good and true camembert is always a Camembert from Normandy. Beware of imitations! Then, choose it according to your taste. Some people like it "hard", that is to say rather chalky. Others, on the contrary, prefer it "well done" as we say. It runs a little when you cut it and it is often odorous. The smell of a Camembert cheese is what made Léon-Paul Fargue say: "Camembert cheese smells like the feet of God". Don't trust the smell, it doesn't influence the taste. In short, the more it flows, the more taste your Camembert has. 


What do you eat it with ? 

Some bread. A baguette is very good. But it is true that it is also good on a good rustic bread, or with nut bread. In fact, you can indulge yourself by adding a bit of nuts and grapes to the piece of camembert you are about to eat. You can also alternate with a little quince jam. It is too good! It is rather traditional to drink it with a red wine, but, more and more, we taste it with a white wine, rather flowery, not too dry. It is also royal with the other specialty of Normandy: cider


How to use camembert in cooking 

When making a fondue for example: 

You take your Camembert cheese which will be sold to you in its typical round wooden box. You remove the packaging but you keep the box and you put the camembert "naked" if I dare say in the wooden box. You put it in the oven at 180 °C for a good 10 minutes and when you see it swell up, you take it out of the oven. You draw a cross on it to "open" it and there is nothing left to do but to dip bread or potatoes in water with a fork in your Camembert fondue (you can be 4 for one Camembert).

The best part: a small green salad on the side with a good vinaigrette. 

Fondue de Camembert / Image par stoica ionela/ShutterstockFondue de Camembert / Image par stoica ionela/Shutterstock


And why not some Camembert croquettes 



  • 120 grams of flour
  • A camembert (a little plastered otherwise it will not hold) 
  • 1 egg white, 
  • 100 grams of breadcrumbs (but you can also crush walnuts and you will use 20 grams of them, so only 80 grams of breadcrumbs).
  • Oil for frying


The process 


  1. Cut your Camembert cheese into pieces
  2. Dip the pieces in the egg white (this will allow the breadcrumbs to stick)
  3. Roll them in the breadcrumbs 
  4. Fry them in oil at 180 degrees.


And why not a pie with camembert ? 



  • 1 camembert cheese 
  • 100 grams of bacon 
  • 400 grams of broccoli (but you can replace with other vegetables, why not cauliflower?)
  • 4 eggs 
  • Fresh cream 
  • And for the dough: shortcrust pastry. 


Process :


  1. Preheat your oven to 180 °C
  2. Place your pastry on your pie pan
  3. Cook the vegetable and place it on the bottom of the pie
  4. Fry your lardons in a pan (just enough to release their fat, but not too much since we are going to cook the pie).
  5. Arrange them on top of the broccoli pieces 
  6. Cut your camembert into slices that are not too thick 
  7. Cover your pie with your camembert strips
  8. In a bowl, break your 4 eggs and beat them with the cream and a little salt (not too much) and pepper.
  9. Pour over the pie
  10. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes (and keep an eye on it).


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Excuse our translator for the errors, he is in love he has the spirit elsewhere

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Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.