Smelly cheese hall of fame: Epoisses. Why do some cheeses smell bad?
Smelly cheese can be a tough sell to some folks. A good, upstanding wheel of washed-rind can smell strongly enough to cause scent-sensitive people to run for the nearest open window. Their reasoning makes sense: what sane, self-preservation savvy person would eat something that stinks so damn bad? There’s a good reason, actually. Because smelly cheese is freaking delicious.
Why do some cheeses smell bad?
At the top of the smelly cheese list, washed-rind cheeses have been bathed in any number of things, including water, salt, wine, spices, and various liquors. The washing helps the cheese retain moisture and develop their characteristic flavors. The outside of the not-yet-smelly cheese then builds up a colony of ofbrevibacterium linens, otherwise known as b. linens. These cultures are what cause the strong smell.
When buying washed-rind cheeses, look for rinds that are uniformly colored—often pink, orange, or light beige. The smell should be pungent, obviously. Some ammoniated cheeses are perfectly fine to eat, but beware of any excessively ammoniated funk, as this may mean the cheese has spoiled. (When in doubt, ask your cheesemonger.) With the exception of a few smelly cheeses, the skin should be smooth, not sticky, slimy, tacky, dry, or cracked.
Smelly Cheese – best of breed
Here are a handful of lovely, stinky cheeses you should try. I promise, there’s gold at the end of the rainbow:
- Epoisses – The aroma of this super smelly cheese might be off-putting to some, but the inside is a mild, luscious, creamy treat that is at the top of many people’s Top 10 lists.
- Limburger – Perhaps the most famous smelly cheese of all time, if the number of pop culture references are any indicator. Limburger is a soft, salty, melty cheese behind its outwardly abrasive personality.
- Taleggio – This is hands down my favorite smelly cheese. Taleggio is pungent, to be sure, but its mellow, salty, meaty flavor profile makes it an excellent cheese for both cooking and adding to a cheese plate.
- Nicasio Square – Not as smelly as some other washed rind cheeses, Nicasio Square is a good intro to smelly cheese. You’ll find its flavor to be buttery, salty, and tart.
- Red Hawk – An honorably stinky triple-cream by Cowgirl Creamery, Red Hawk is a lovely experience that enchants with its salty, creamy, gently-sweet interior.
- Bonne Bouche – Not a washed rind, but still a cheese that can stink up your refrigerator. This little puck of love actually tastes like sweet, salty milk, rainbows, and unicorns. Another that lives permanently at the top of my favorite cheese list.