Science

Why does camembert smell so strong? – Sciences and future

CJAMY. Camille Gaubert’s column is broadcast daily on the “C Jamy” program, hosted by Jamy Gourmaud from Monday to Friday at 5pm on France 5.

But, what is the origin of the smell of Camembert, this cheese that has gone from green to white in a century? The answer lies in the microorganisms that inhabit our cheeses. They belong to dozens of different species, but the main culprits for the odor are the bacteria Hafnia alveiet and Brevibacterium linens.

Smells like sulfur!

Both produce sulfur compounds, that is, molecules that contain sulfur, which have a particularity … They are very fragrant! One of these molecules is methanethiol. It has several characteristics. First of all, it is very volatile, that is, it very easily changes to the gaseous state, where it can float in the air. In fact, it is enough to exceed 6 ° C for it to invade our nose! And since the refrigerators are at 4 ° C, you understand why they barely open, the methanethiol rushes to find you. The second peculiarity of methanethiol, and we have said it, is that it smells bad: in addition, it is also found in animal feces or in flatulence! Another problem: our nose is able to detect it even in very small amounts. But, of course, this is not the only molecule responsible for the smell: isovaleric acid is one of the other molecules produced by bacteria in cheese … but also by bacteria lodged between the toes, after hours of sweating In his shoes! But why is Camembert still palatable to most of us?

The retronasal approach

Two answers: first, it’s not the same part of your nose that smells like cheese when you take it out of the fridge and when you put it in your mouth. The perception of odors through the mouth is carried out through receptors located at the back of the nose: this is called the retronasal route. The brain then combines the taste and texture of the food with the new odors released by chewing. And we love it! The second reason we still like smelly cheese … it’s just cultural!

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