At La Ferme du Champ Secret in Normandy, France, owner Patrick Mercier is delighted that his cheese has been said to have “the flavor of the barn.” He and the other workers at the fourth generation family-run farm pride themselves on the fact that they are one of only two remaining farms that produces the organic, grass-fed Camembert] using traditional methods. “For us, it is an honor to succeed in conveying the ambiance of the herd in our cheese.”
Normandy is credited with being the birthplace of Camembert — a soft, spreadable, creamy French cheese. At his farm, Mercier is creating raw-milk cheese which comes from a single herd of Norman cows that are fed an organic diet.
The 110-cow herd produces 15 to 20 liters of milk each day. The milk runs straight through to the dairy without being refrigerated, and is left overnight. The next morning it’s heated, enzymes are added, and the milk is left to coagulate. Once curds begin to form, they’re scooped out and put into round molds where the natural bacteria and acid cause the curds to retract and squeeze out water, leaving behind flavorful and aromatic elements. “When it’s made from raw milk it can be surprising because there’s an explosion of flavor,” says Mercier. “[This is] not possible to reproduce in a pasteurized Camembert.”
Once the cheese begins to take its shape, the round blocks sit in a production room on wooden mats, which create the cheese’s signature grooves. It’s here where a small amount of salt is added to create the mold that becomes the classic rind. After four to five days, the cheese is packaged in the farm’s signature green and yellow round wooden box, and shipped out around France.