I like stinky cheese. Especially soft cheeses with rinds. Or with mold. Nice and stinky.
The soft ripened cheeses of France can become particularly fragrant. My favorite stinky cheese is Pont l’Eveque, which is made in Normandy. It has a square shape, slightly smaller than your hand, with an orange-tinted waxy rind. Another good one is Camembert, also from Normandy. It is about the same size but round, and its rind is white. Both are similar to brie, which is more of a type of cheese than a specific variety tied to a particular location. Brie comes in large wheels and is often sliced into wedges to be sold.
These cheeses are produced in a manner that might put some people off. Many cheeses in general use rennet (a secretion from ruminant animals’ stomachs), and the ones I have mentioned are aged using a bacterial spray.
But the taste! The stinkier the cheese, the better the flavor. I like to let them warm to nearly room temperature and spread them on slices of baguette.
Another lovely variety of stink comes from blue cheese, of which Roquefort is my favorite. Cheese of this particular name must come from Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the southern French region of Occitane. Cheese of this style is infused with mold, which gives it its blue-green streaks. There are many types of blue cheese, all of which are made from ewe’s milk.
I have one friend who stuffs large green olives with Roquefort and uses them as garnishes for Martinis. But sometimes I am happy to forgo the cocktail and simply eat the stuffed olives. The combination of flavors is magnificent.
All of these soft cheeses do something special when paired with a good red wine. When I eat a piece of cheese, then follow it with a sip of wine, a distinctive scent ascends to my olfactory region. It is not stinky, but truly exquisite–almost otherworldly.
I must note that in France, as well as in many European countries, producers and sellers of cheese understand that their product is alive. They do not seal their cheeses in plastic; instead, they wrap them in paper and additional packaging that allow the cheese to breathe. When importers or grocery stores here in the U.S. seal the cheese away from the air, it isn’t as stinky. And it won’t produce that effect when sipping wine.
Soft cheeses are produced using similar methods all around Europe. Artisanal cheese makers here in the States have also duplicated these styles with varying degrees of success.
But my favorite stinky cheeses come from France.
Ironically, I have yet to try Limburger cheese, which people say is super-stinky. It comes from Belgium. It is next on my list.