And They Called Them Stinky

by kirstin on April 11, 2012

Limburger bricks after salting, waiting to be washed

Limburger bricks after salting, waiting to be washed

And They Called Them Stinky,” {by me} originally published on the Menuism Cheese Blog.

The first time I heard someone call Comté “stinky,” my jaw dropped. Comté, a semi-hard lightly washed rind from France’s jura region, is a sultry, sweet wheel with flavors of butter, toasted walnuts, caramel, and from time to time, notes of caramel or beef. I would have sooner called a rose stinky than Comté. It wasn’t until that French friend told me that on one of the many gastronomic field trips that French children take during elementary school, she fainted in a Comté cave because the scent was so fierce, that I really thought about the term stinky.

Stinky is relative. My fainting friend — who admits the only cheese she’ll eat is fresh burrata or mozzarella and who made me keep all cheese I purchased while visiting her on the balcony where she couldn’t smell it — has a very low tolerance level for stinky cheese. Let’s classify it as zero on a scale of 1 to 10 (I still love her though; she sends me home with jars of her granmother’s quince jelly). My stinky tolerance level is 8. Another friend’s level is 13.

In honor of cheeses everywhere, I thought I’d take some time to mention some of my favorite stinkies, as in, they stink so good. Their scent comes from cheesemakers washing them in a brine of salt and water or a blend of water and alcohol that encourages growth of the sultry Brevibacterium linens bacteria. It’s a good bacteria that keeps the bad ones away.

Below are some of my favorite choices, in varying degrees of stinkiness. I rate the funkiness possibilities from 1-10. Taste at your local cheese shop if you want to rate your specific slice before taking home.

Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk
A beginner’s stinky. A triple-creme that tastes like butter with a kick. Serve young if you like it mild, let it mellow if you like it funky. I like this one with fruit and walnut crostinis. 3 to 8 (if you let it sit in your fridge for a week or more, it’s an 8, easy).
Laguiole
A semi-firm cheese from Auvergne, France, with a slight cheddary bite and a sharp/sweet finish. Good with sour cherry preserves. 3 to 5.
Twig Farm Washed Wheel
A full-bodied, yet sweet semi-firm goat’s milk cheese that occasionally has a little cow’s milk mixed in. Love it with fig jam. 2 to 5.
Torta la Serena
Set with thistle flower, this sheep’s milk wheel has a floral, slightly vegetal flavor. It gets so soft as it ages that its top can be cut off and its insides scooped straight from the cheese. Good with torn pieces of country bread. 4 to 10.
Limburger
This traditional softie ranges from mild to way, way strong. Comes with aging guidelines. Seek out the Chalet Cheese version if you can — it’s the only remaining producer of this famed cheese in the U.S. Chalet Cheesemaker Myron Olson likes it with strawberry jam, and so do I. 5 to 11.
A beginner’s stinky. A triple-creme that tastes like butter with a kick. Serve young if you like it mild, let it mellow if you like it funky. I like this one with fruit and walnut crostinis. 3 to 8 (if you let it sit in your fridge for a week or more, it’s an 8, easy).
A semi-firm cheese from Auvergne, France, with a slight cheddary bite and a sharp/sweet finish. Good with sour cherry preserves. 3 to 5.
A full-bodied, yet sweet semi-firm goat’s milk cheese that occasionally has a little cow’s milk mixed in. Love it with fig jam. 2 to 5.
Set with thistle flower, this sheep’s milk wheel has a floral, slightly vegetal flavor. It gets so soft as it ages that its top can be cut off and its insides scooped straight from the cheese. Good with torn pieces of country bread. 4 to 10.
This traditional softie ranges from mild to way, way strong. Comes with aging guidelines. Seek out the Chalet Cheese version if you can — it’s the only remaining producer of this famed cheese in the U.S. Chalet Cheesemaker Myron Olson likes it with strawberry jam, and so do I. 5 to 11.
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

meg jones wall April 20, 2012 at 9:21 AM

thanks for this list! personally, whenever anyone describes a cheese as “stinky,” it only makes me want to taste it more. “stinky” means powerful, flavorful, impossible-to-ignore. and usually, it means that the cheese will be beyond delicious :)

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KD April 20, 2012 at 11:28 AM

I agree with Meg Jones Wall

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Madame Fromage April 29, 2012 at 7:39 PM

Mmm, I love this topic. There’s nothing like a good Epoisses either, or a ripping wheel of Hooligan (my personal fave). Have you ever tried Stinky Fottene from Wisconsin? It’s the first time I’ve tried a cheese with “stinky” in the title!

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kirstin May 1, 2012 at 3:16 PM

I haven’t tried the Fottene from WI, though am considering ordering it direct just to try it. I love that they own being stinky!

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