Cheese of the Week: Époisses
Cheese of The Week is a new weekly feature on The Daily Meal, drawing on the expertise of internationally renowned cheese expert and consultant Raymond Hook. What follows is based on an interview with Hook.
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Époisses is one of those cheeses whose bark is worse than its bite. It’s got a funky smell, to say the least, punctuated by notes of what some might equate with "stinky foot." But don’t let that fool you; the taste is far milder than what the smell would lead you to believe. Stick a spoon into it, smear some of the creamy, oozy goodness onto a crusty baguette, close your eyes and take a bite, and you’ll be in cheese heaven.
Like a lot of cheeses, Époisses was created in the 1600s, by monks, according to Hook. In the 1800s production slowed down, and by World War II it had ceased entirely. In the mid-1950s, however, a fromagerie called Berthaut began producing it once again.
The cheese is sold in a round wooden box, and its color is a deep orange due to it being regularly washed with Marc de Bourgogne, a brandy made from grape pumice, or stems and seeds. Not only does this add flavor, it keeps the cheese moist. When purchasing, look for that moistness; if it appears cracked or dried out, or if it has an ammonia-like smell, don’t buy it. Make sure that you let it rest at room temperature for an hour before eating, in order to maximize its spreadable, almost soupy consistency (don’t bother with a knife for this one; leave it in the box and dig in with a spoon). It’s best paired with a white wine from Burgundy, or a sauternes, according to Hook.
When you’re finished digging in (assuming that there’s anything left), close the box and wrap it in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator until the next time you eat it, which should be no more than a day or two later. Just make sure that the plastic wrap isn’t directly touching the cheese.
Properties: Sold in a 250-gram, 8.8-ounce serving. Washed-rind cow’s milk cheese, aged six weeks. Pasteurized in America, unpasteurized in France. Made with animal rennet.