Epoisses: A Cheese for Kings

November 18, 2010

Epoisses is a traditional French cheese that is said to have been loved by kings and Napoleon.  We, too, fell in love with this cheese’s flavor during our tasting.  However, its soupy consistency created a serving nightmare.

Epoisses is a soft, washed rind cheese from the Burgundy region of France.    There are several producers of Epoisses, with some using raw cow’s milk for production.  Our sample was produced by Berthaut.  The cheese’s finishing process occurs over several weeks: it receives repeated dips in a brine bath and a brandy called “marc de bourgogne.”  Epoisses comes to market pre-packaged in a wooden box.

EpoissesEpoisses is a flat disc the size of camembert.  It has a rusty orange rind that is grooved with lines and wrinkles; the rind is soft and gummy to the touch.  The interior paste is pale yellow and runny.  Jacob compared the texture of Epoisses to “ooblek,” a sticky goo kids make at summer camps.

Epoisses has a reputation as a super stinker, but our cheese was not foul.  Epoisses has an aroma that is close to a light foot odor, but there are also ammonia and wheat germ scents.  The paste smells like sweet butter and cream.

The dominant flavors are sour and tangy.  There is also a little nuttiness and an underlying sweet butter flavor.  In the mouth, the paste is thick, rich and creamy.  The flavors and texture are enticing.  Epoisses leaves a sour and tangy after-taste in the mouth.

Epoisses is a delicious cheese with amazing flavor and mouth feel.  One of my juvenile tasters did not like it much, but the other tasters really enjoyed this cheese.  The cheese’s aroma clings to the fingers well past eating.

Epoisses is such a messy cheese, we fondly named it “soup.”  When I cut into the whole cheese, it collapsed into runny disarray.  The room temperature cheese was nearly impossible to cut into smaller servings: the knife clung to the sticky paste and could not be removed without further damaging the cheese’s structure.  I tried several different knives in an attempt to cut individual servings for our tasters with not much success.  (Note: cut the cheese into individual servings when the cheese is first removed from the refrigerator).

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Epoisses from 24th Street Cheese Co. (San Francisco); it is also available at many grocery stores.  Purchase Epoisses as a whole uncut cheese.  Our 8-oz. sample came pre-packaged in its own box.  Be prepared to eat the cheese in one serving as it becomes a mess once cut.

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