Lower Normandy Camembert, Pont l'Evêque and Livarot are creamy cheeses highly appreciated worldwide. Part of the traditional French refined produce, Norman cheeses are originally handmade from Normandy unpasteurised cow's milk. The rural Normandy region indeed has been respecting the authentic techniques of production, becoming a favourite destination for both French gourmets and foreign tourists.
The traditional camembert from Lower Normandy is one of the best known French cheeses. With a fresh, soft and fruity taste, this creamy cheese can be compared to good wines : the more camembert ages, the sharper its taste is. Indeed, beside maturing for an average of 6 weeks, this authentic Norman produce is made out from unpasteurised milk, which gives it a richer and more complex flavour.
Some gourmets like to relish Normandy cheese when it is ripe with a butter-smooth interior, whilst other prefer it a bit younger with a paler, drier layer in the middle. Whichever affinage (cheese maturing) you prefer, do not forget to accompany it with a tasty French wine!
Top Tip! Made for the first time at the end of the 18th century by the farmer Marie Harel, in the village of Camembert, the tasty Norman cheese was highly appreciated then by Napoleon III who served it at his banquets. In 1880 the engineer Ridel had the idea to wrap Camembert in a box of thin wood to sell it - and even export it - more easily.
The latest crucial step that made Camembert a renowned French product was in 1983 when it received the French AOC Quality Label.
Pont l'Evêque Cheese
French Pont l’Evêque cheese is solely produced in Normandy, recognizable by its small square shape and pale orange rind. Dating back to the 13th century, this creamy produce is one of the oldest cheeses of Lower Normandy. Pont l'Evêque was first called "Angelot" and used as a trading currency for taxes and wages. The cheese then took the name of the village in Normandy where it was mainly produced, Pont l'Evêque in the Calvados department.
Since 1972 when this cheese received the AOC label, this authentic French cheese has been produced respecting the strict rules dictated by the French Quality Appellation.
The unpasteurised cow's milk is first heated at about 35ºC. The resulting curds and whey are scooped into round moulds and pressed to drain off the whey. Once moulded, the paste is regularly turned (for the draining), and after 2 to 5 days, the cheeses are unmoulded and salted. Between the 5th and 10th day, Pont l'Evêque is washed and brushed many times. The final affinage lasts between 2 and 6 weeks.
Top Tip! To fully enjoy Pont l'Evêque's creamy and full-bodied flavour, typical from the French countryside, do try it with other Normandy produce like ripe pears, fresh or roasted, or strawberries - without forgetting a glass of local wine!
The Norman Livarot cheese is also locally known as "Colonel" because of the stripes on its rind resulting from the sedge leaves wrapped around each cheese to prevent the weakest pastes from collapsing. Indeed, such bindings look like the stripes on Colonels' military uniform!
It is believed in this region of France that Livarot's producing has monastic origins. Whatever its history, this refined creamy cheese from Lower Normandy is today made out with the same process than other delicious cheeses of Normandy such as Pont l'Evêque and Pavé d'Auge, hence the Livarot's typical washed rind and pungent aroma. Besides its rind is rather brown-orange due to the annatto washings.