In this morning's New York Times, Elaine Sciolino reports that certain French Camembert makers want to change the rules to allow the formerly unpasteurized raw milk used to make traditional Camembert to be treated and yet still receive the authenticating AOC designation from the government. A couple of years ago, Jeffrey Steingarten and I sat down at Artisanal with one of its young fromagers for a taste test to find out if one could tell the difference between treated and untreated Camembert.
Cheese gendarmes, please note that the untreated, raw-milk cheese had been smuggled in by a third party unrelated to either me, Steingarten, or the fellow from Artisanal.
If my memory serves me well, the cheeses we tried were treated and untreated Canadian Camemberts. The untreated, raw-milk cheese had been smuggled in by an unknown amateur cheese smuggling tourist. Both cheeses were perfectly ripe, and I would have been happy with either of them with a crusty piece of bread and a glass of wine, but the untreated Camembert had a little more depth of flavor, a little more tang, and a little more soul. I wouldn't have kicked either of them off a cheese plate.
Though the French Camembert makers requesting the rule change claim it is for safety reasons (six children fell ill in 2005 after eating raw-milk Camembert), they are also going to continue making raw-milk, untreated Camembert "on a small scale with tight controls."
So, they want to have their raw-milk Camembert and the treated stuff as well. It seems as if something really stinks about this state of affairs, and it's not the cheese.
[photograph taken by jovike]