Pass the Camelbert

Camel Cheese, by Alicia Sully

Last week in Doha, I connected to a group of camel cheese fanatics. They tried to smuggle some in from Syria for me to taste, but Syria is on the rocks. Instead, the camel fanatics gave me a copy of their new book, a wee camel-cheese treatise that makes me want to get my hands on some, if not for the taste, then for the health benefits.

Alicia Sully, a self-decribed “camel milk junkie,” is part of the trifecta who authored the book. Her film crew, What Took You So Long, happened to be filming the TEDxSummit I attended – but mostly her rogue band travels the Middle East filming camel-cheese makers. They hope to release a documentary soon – one part of it already ran in a London film fest under the title Hot Chocolate for Bedouins.

Needless to say, Madame Fromage is on the beat. What on earth does camel cheese taste like, and why haven’t I been able to wrangle a nibble at Di Bruno Bros. or Artisanal or Murray’s?

Turns out camel’s milk is tricky to work with. “It doesn’t coagulate like cow’s milk,” Sully told me in Doha, over drinks at the W Hotel. When I got home I did some sleuthing and discovered a New York Times article from 2008 on imported Camelbert.

“We have eaten Camelbert in Mauritania,” Sully wrote in a recent email. “The export of the cheese didn’t really work out although a lot of it is taken across seas from Mauritania to France and beyond.”

Photo credit: Alicia Sully

Looks like I’ll have to nab a flight to Paris to sample camel cheese. Perhaps I can get David Lebovitz on the case?

The best camel cheese turns out to be in Saudi Arabia, according to Sully. It’s made by “a French guy.” Bien sur. Holland is on the camel-cheese train, too; at least one village cheesemaker is experimenting with it. Sully details her discovery of Camel Gouda in a blog post.

Further sleuthing reveals that camel dairies are popping up in America – including Oasis Camel Dairy in California and Camel Milk USA in North Carolina. There’s even a Camel Milk Association — in Michigan. It’s just a matter of time, my beloveds, until we find ourselves eating Camelgiano Reggiano and Camelzola.

 Camel Milk Facts

 

  • Camel milk is full of vitamins (ten times more iron than cow’s milk) – perfect for herders who travel long distances across the desert.
     
  • Dromedary milk has less fat than Bactrian milk – there’s your Quizzo points. (A dromedary has one hump; a Bactrian camel has two.)
     
  • Regarding camel udders: milk is stored internally, not externally as with cows — a cranky camel will hold it inside.
     
  • Australia is home to 500,000 mostly feral camels!
     
  • Camel dairies exist in Mauritania, Dubai, Kenya, Kazakhstan and the U.S.
     
  • Research shows that diabetics who consume camel’s milk require less insulin.
     

Psst…If you know of anyone making or selling camel cheese, please let me know. And if you want to follow Alicia Sully and the progress on What Took You So Long’s camel-cheese documentary, check out their Facebook page.

Sources: The Grassroots Camel Cheese Book, by Alica Sully, Sebastian Lindstrom, and Philippa Young

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Comments
4 Responses to “Pass the Camelbert”
  1. Joe Garverick says:

    I have 15 camels in lambertville mi the second largest heard in Michigan. I would be interested in talking to someone about making cheese my number is 419-279-0390 thank you

    • tdarlington says:

      Thanks for reaching out, Joe. Let’s see if we can make this happen. Do you have a web site? I’d be happy to link to it and put out a call to readers/cheesemakers.

  2. songhaer says:

    Hello I come from China’s Xinjiang
    We here thousands of head of two-humped camels

    I want to learn the manufacture of camel cheese you give me the recipe.

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