There are some cheeses out there that are not for everyone. A really stinky and pungent blue cheese, for example, can be difficult for some people to eat, and some washed-rind cheeses take on a stinky sock funk that can turn plenty of folks off (even though it tastes nothing like it smells!). But there’s one cheese that even the most hardcore cheese fanatics might turn their nose up at: casu marzu.
Casu marzu starts innocently enough, as a wheel of Sardinian pecorino, or sheep’s milk cheese. But a section of the cheese’s rind is removed, and the cheese is left outside, and a fly called Piophila casei, or cheese fly, is allowed to lay eggs inside the cheese. A single fly can lay up to 100 eggs at a time, which in turn hatch into maggots. The maggots eat through the cheese when hatched, rendering it extremely soft. When ready for consumption, the cheese will have broken down to a point of being soft and mushy, and it’ll be filled with thousands of maggots.
When it comes time to eat the cheese, which takes on an extremely funky, ammoniated flavor during the, well, let’s just call it a “maggot process,” a small amount is spread on Sardinian flatbread and washed down with strong red wine. Many people choose to eat the cheese along with the maggots; Because the little guys are able to jump up to six inches when disturbed, many eat the cheese while holding their hands over it in order to prevent them from leaping. Those who prefer not to eat the maggots place the cheese in a plastic bag so they die of oxygen deprivation (but not before jumping around and making a ruckus).
Needless to say, you can’t just find this cheese at any old cheese shop, and it’s actually pretty tough to track down even in Sicily, where its legality remains questionable. One thing that isn’t questionable? The absolute insanity of this maggot-ridden cheese.