Sunday, February 27, 2011

Époisses de Bourgogne

When I first sent out links to this blog to family and friends, I encouraged them to send us on missions - things they would like to see or know more about.  A friend of mine, Lily (who , by the way, is very lucky!)  asked me if I had tried Époisses de Bourgogne (pronounced ay-pwahze du bore-gunne) cheese as it was one of her favorites when she lived in France many years ago.  Being the cosmopolitan world traveler that I am, I had never even heard of Époisses de Bourgogne.  Thus, a mission was born.  I would seek out and try Époisses de Bourgogne.

I needed to know more about this cheese so I did some research.  What is it exactly and how do I eat it?  Google is my friend (except when I have a French ISP address and it assumes I want all my pages in French), as is Wikipedia (once I googled google and clicked on Google in English) and I found quite a bit of information about Époisses de Bourgogne.  

First, it is commonly referred to as Époisses.  

Second, it is one of the "smelliest" cheeses, second only to Vieux-Boulogne. I feel a disclaimer is in order though - I am not fond of the term "smelly".  I prefer the term aromatic, which means
  • fragrant,
  • having a strong smell and,
  • having a distinctive quality. 
  Époisses is all of those, so I will use the term aromatic.  

Third, it is a cheese made in the village of Époisses, a small town about halfway between Paris and Lyon.

The aromaticity of cheese intrigues me; who decides which cheeses make the top ten list?  Again, more research.  It turns out that researchers at Cranfield University (a British post-grad university with it's own airport!) tested 15 British and French cheeses with their very own noses and determined that Vieux Boulogne was the most aromatic.  That was all well and good, but with the limited information available, I'm guessing the researchers each smelled the 15 different cheeses and then rated them, which required some kind of scale and a little bit of subjectivity.  However, in addition to the blind-folded judges' noses, the researchers also used a bionic nose (an electronic nose with sensors).  Vieux Boulogne was again crowned the winner of the most aromatic cheese (con)test.  So, if Vieux Boulogne is considered the most aromatic cheese by real and bionic noses, and Époisses is considered 2nd to Vieux Boulogne by some noses and 10th by other noses, then I think Époisses really and truly is quite aromatic.

So, armed with this information, I went to my local Fromagerie and looked around and there it was!

Époisses - from Époisses de Bourgogne in a handy dandy round wooden container
I made my purchase and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it's aromaticity could not escape the wooden container.  That's a good thing because I realized after I bought it that if it was going to aromatize the refrigerator, that would not be a good thing.

So what makes Époisses an aromatic cheese?  Apparently it is the rind-washing process that does it.  Époisses is made by heating whole milk to about 85F with coagulation lasting for at least 16 hours.  The curds are then drained in molds and the whey is allowed to run off.  About 48 hours later the cheese is removed, salted and placed on racks to dry.  When the cheese is dry it is moved to a cellar to mature.  During maturation, the cheese is washed up to three times per week with a mixture of water and Pomace brandy, and while being washed the cheese is brushed by hand to spread the bacteria evenly over the surface.  The yeast and fermenting agents create a distinctively aromatic orange-red exterior in about 6 weeks.

My Époisses was wrapped in thin plastic inside the wooden container.  Once opened, it's aromaticity was released!  Notice the orange rind.

My research indicated that I should cut off the top rind to dip into the cheese, 

Époisses - a very light and creamy cheese inside the rind
and spread  it onto slices of a baguette, accompanied by a nice white wine.

Époisses is very soft (aka "runny")
Along with the typical orange rind, the cheese has a salty flavor.  The one we bought had a variety of flavors; first I noticed the salty, then another more pungent flavor developed and finally there was a sweet aftertaste.  It was quite an interesting experience.
Because I had to run over to the boulangerie to get a baguette for our lunch, Ron thought we should have a little something sweet to go with our cheese.
un chocolat et un éclair au café - délicieux!
It was a fun and fabulous lunch.  Thanks Lily, for sending us on this mission!

If you'd like to see photos of something specific or have us try a French food item and review it for you, send us an email or leave a comment here.


  1. Mmm Époisses. My favourite cheese!

    (Try eating a sandwich with époisses on a train...)

  2. heh

    I read somewhere that époisses is banned from public transport, but I'm not sure I believe it!

  3. Hey Cozin Neecie.....did it smell like someone stepped in poop again?
    send me your phone # I've got about 5 hours of free international calling...and I miss you!
    Love to you and Cozin Ronny too!

    Cozin Leetha....

  4. Ha! No - it definitely was not the "dog poop" cheese! Maybe that was the Vieux Bologne? Some day I will figure out which cheese that was!

  5. It is superbly delicious and in no way resembles dog-poop or underarm stench. I also think the ban from the Paris Metro is a bit of urban hogwash.