There’s stinky cheese, and then there’s Epoisses de Bourgogne. Called the “king of cheeses,” this raw and runny cow’s milk curd has such a rank odor it’s rumored to have once been banned from public transportation in France. I absolutely love it.
A quick history
Epoisse was first created in the 16th century by monks living in the Epoisse village of Burgundy in Central France. In the 1950s, after tinkering with the cheese-making process a bit, French foodies Robert and Simone Berthaut came up with the Epoisses we know and love today.
A few specialty cheese makers produce delicious Epoisses-style cheeses, but the Berthaut label is still the one to get.
How it’s made
Epoisses doesn’t come easy. First, milk is cooked at 86 degrees Fahrenheit for 16 hours. This slow cooking builds up lactic acid, which creates the cheese curds. This is called lactic-acid fermentation and it’s quite rare these days. Most cheeses are made using rennet or other enzymes.
The cheese ages for six weeks. During that time, the cheese is rinsed three times a week with a mixture of salt and a local brandy, known as Marc de Bourgogne. This weekly bath actually gives Epoisses its super stinky smell and its gorgeous orange-red rind.
Ready to dig in? Here’s what you need to know:
Flavor: Don’t let the smell scare you—this creamy cheese has a subtle and delicate flavor. Sweet and salty mixed with a hint of earthiness, you’ll be able to pick up hints of grass and wild blossoms as well.
Texture: Firm edible rind surrounding a soft and runny inside
Food: Epoisses doesn’t need much accompaniment. Grab a loaf of crusty bread and you’ve got a perfect meal. For a slightly different flavor, serve with pickled onions or grilled apricots.
Wine: This is a big cheese that holds up well with a white Burgundy, a dry Pinot Gris, Alsatian Riesling, or Sauternes.
Shelf life: Keep in a cool storage or refrigerator for 30 days.