Assortment of cheeses in market in France.
Food - Drink
The Pungent French Cheese You Shouldn't Judge On Smell Alone
French cheese has a reputation for being quite pungent, and the most pungent of all might just be Époisses de Bourgogne. The cheese has such a powerful fragrance that it was officially banned from being consumed on public transit, but don’t let its scent fool you because the cheese is sure to surprise and delight your palate.
What Is Époisses?
Époisses hails from France's Burgundy region and has become one of the world's most recognized cheeses not only for its powerful aroma but also for its creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture. The cheese is known for its pungent dirty sock smell, distinctive orange rind, and its surprisingly earthy, umami flavor.
Historians believe Époisses originated during the Renaissance thanks to dairy-farming Cistercian monks living in the area. Although the cheese gained local recognition and was dubbed the "king of all cheeses,” it wasn’t until the 1950s that cheesemongers Robert and Simone Berthaut helped it gain worldwide attention.
The Process
Époisses is made through a process called "caillé lactique,” which involves coagulating the cream with acid and heat. The delicate cheese is then washed in a process that can take weeks, and before being aged for one month, the cheese's rind is rinsed with a regional brandy which adds flavor and helps harden the rind.
Époisses has an overwhelming scent that almost stings the nose, and this pungent fragrance is due to the aging process, particularly the brandy wash which attracts the stinky bacteria, Brevibacterium. On top of that, in order to get the gooey texture that's so loved, the cheese must mature for at least a month.