Monday, 12 November 2007
Cheese of the month - Epoisses "Berthault"
The problem, and it's a major problem, that lovers of fantastically smelly cheeses have, is how to store them without offending your housemates or ruining every item of permeable food in your fridge. Stinking Bishop (reviewed in July) is certainly a pungent cheese but fortunately is sensibly shaped and can be safely wrapped in cling film and sealed inside tupperware to limit the effects of the vapours. No such luck with Epoisses, which is always served in a 2-inch high wooden pot, too big for any tupperware I have and totally impossible to make airtight. So consider the sacrifice I had to make for this review, that in order to complete a quick tasting on Saturday night I have for around 7 days to put up with Epoisses-flavoured orange juice, Epoisses flavoured milk with my Golden Grahams in the morning (not as bad as you might think actually) and an eye-watering haze of Epoisses that rises from my kitchen up the stairs to my bedroom every time I open my fridge door. My housemates, fortunately, are currently out of the country.
Is it worth the antisocial effects? In the main, yes. The cheese we bought (from Hamish Johnston on Northcote Road as usual) was as runny as any Epoisses I've ever tried, and this was straight out of the fridge. Allowed to warm up slightly it became almost liquid, and transferring any to a cracker was a very messy operation. Fortunately the taste was as good as you might expect. Salty and rich, with a complex earthy flavour and not unpleasantly sulphurous, in common with Stinking Bishop it is the smell that affects you more than the flavour in the mouth, but this is not a bad thing. My only gripe really was the extreme runniness, which was a bit weird and didn't sit very well with the hard orange crust.
I am now doing my best to eat great spoonfuls of Epoisses every evening, to try and get through it before my house is sealed off and raided by the counter-terrorism squad. Next time I'm going to try something a little more mainstream, but I can still recommend Epoisses Berthault as an exciting cheese for those who like to be challenged by unique flavours and strong odours. Just don't expect to get the same reaction from all your friends.