The King of all Cheeses?

This week’s cheese was inspired by a recipe I read in Food & Wine Magazine earlier this year. The cover photo featured a delectable looking grilled cheese made with Époisses. I don’t remember eating any Époisses during my time in France (oh, the shame!), so I thought it was about time to right that wrong.

epoisses 1

Formally called Époisses de Bourgogne, this soft, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese comes from the town Époisses in the Côte-d’Or region of France. It has a pungent odor, due to its rind being smear-ripened. It is washed in marc de Bourgogne (the local pomace brandy) three times a week, and brushed by hand to spread the bacteria evenly over the surface. The yeast and fermenting agents produce its orange-red color as it develops over a six-week period.

Époisses was quite popular at the turn of the 20th century, almost non-existent after the Second World War, then in 1956 was re-launched by Robert and Simone Berthaut, a pair of small farmers in the area. Their family is still the main manufacturer, as you can see on the circular wooden box that encases each round of this soft, tasty cheese.

Now…for the taste! I tasted mine fresh out of the fridge, so didn’t need a spoon like I had seen in some pictures and how it is served at restaurants. But, I loved it nonetheless. The texture is wonderfully creamy, and the flavor is much milder than (but totally aided by) the smell of the rind. Napoleon was a fan of this cheese and the gastronomist Brillat-Savarin declared it the “king of all cheeses.” I can definitely taste why – I declare Époisses one of my new favorites! What a wonderful gift the Berthaut family gave to France and the rest of the cheese-loving world by saving this cheese. Merci à vous!

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In a few days I’ll be posting my take on the Food & Wine grilled cheese recipe – stay tuned!

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