Surprisingly Delicious Stinky Cheeses You'll Want to Endure
If you’ve spent your life passing up cheeses based on scent alone, you've been missing out on some majorly delicious culinary experiences. While following your nose might work in some cases (i.e., Limburger, which is gnarly any way you slice it), many specialty cheeses are actually manufactured to taste much more pleasant than their external odors let on.
We asked three NYC-based cheesemongers -- cheese genius Nick Bayne of Mekelburg's, Murray Cheese’s VP of sales Elizabeth Chubbuck, and Phoebe Connell of Lois and ABC Beer Co. (who we've called upon before) -- to recommend a few smelly-yet-amazing cheeses guaranteed to convert the odor-adverse. Buckle up, olfactorily adventurous friends -- a whole new world of savory satisfaction awaits you.
But first, what makes cheese so smelly, anyway?
"A cheese's smell directly correlates to what molds or bacteria are used to age the cheese and form the rind," says Bayne. The mold works in tandem with yeast, especially in washed-rind cheese, which get a massage with water and liquor, making them extra stinky on the outside, while the softer inside (i.e., the stuff you actually eat) stays much more mild.
Basically, that sounds gross, but trust your instincts, not your nose: "Stinky cheeses should smell sort of like your feet -- bacterial similarity, no joke -- but they shouldn't smell like a heap of rotting trash," says Connell. Duly noted. Now, to the cheese!
"Ameribella from Jacobs & Brichford in Indiana is a great stinky starter cheese. It's a taleggio-style cheese that's sweeter and more mild than most French-style stinkers. It also is slightly firmer and more on the buttery side than the soupy side." -- Phoebe Connell
"The custardy, brothy Ameribella from Jacobs & Brichford is a fine example. It's a high-moisture washed-rind and always on the sticky and smelly side of life, but to me tastes just like the adult version of an American Single!" -- Nick Bayne
Époisses de Bourgogne
"I wouldn't be a real cheesemonger if I didn't mention Époisses. It's a real pudding bomb of salty-yeasty, oniony-meaty cocoa goodness." -- Elizabeth Chubbuck
"The ultimate stinky cheese is Époisses. Because of US regulation, the Époisses that you get here is pasteurized, so it doesn't get quite as much flavor development as its raw-milk French counterpart. You know you've got a good Époisses if it tastes like salty beef stew -- basically the definition of umami." -- PC
"Époisses de Bourgogne from France comes to mind. I find it easier (and frequently more helpful) to tell a customer that the wheel of Époisses they are getting tastes like bacon and butter and smells like the unwashed gym socks of a high schooler than trying to explain it to them in the context of another cheese." -- NB
"Vulto Creamery's Ouleout is one of my favorites -- salty, tangy, yeasty, broccoli." -- EC
"An excellent domestic washed-rind is the buttery and meaty Vulto Creamery Ouleout from New York." -- NB
Gruyere, Scharfe Maxx & Challerhocker
"A good Gruyere might smell like old smelly onions but taste like French onion soup." -- EC
"Harder Alpine-style cheeses in the same family as Gruyere can be surprisingly stinky. Their rinds are drier, so they tend to not have a strong odor until they're cut open. Some of these can have a pronounced bitter, gamey flavor that rivals stinky soft cheeses." -- PC
"I'm also really into a super-nasty funk washed-rind sheep's milk cheese from Corsica called U Pecorinu. U Pecorinu smells like sweaty sheep loins but the taste is nowhere near as wild. On the palate this cheese is creamy, sweet, and nutty with a heavy pinch of salt. If eating a standard taleggio is like driving 85mph in a Ford Taurus, U Pecorinu is pedal to the metal in a Ferrari." -- EC
Winnimere & Vacherin Mont d'Or
"Winnimere from Jasper Hill is the top of the domestic stinky cheese game. It's the same style as Vacherin Mont d'Or with a spruce bark rind, which gives the cheese a nice smoky/woodsy flavor. You also get the best of the stinky cheese beefiness with this one." -- PC
Torta del Casar
"For true pungent power, there's nothing I like more than the crazy torta-style cheeses from Extremadura, Spain! Crafted from raw sheep that is coagulated with a thistle extract, they have the consistency of pudding, unctuously tempting flavors that run the gamut from meat to olives to herbs, and enough stank to fill an entire bar!" -- NB
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Meredith Heil is a staff writer for Thrillist. She check cheddar like a food inspector. Follow her on Twitter: @mereditto.