Epoisses Cheese is a very smelly cheese. Even the French, who are used to aromatic cheeses, consider it smelly.
It is a washed rind cheese made in Burgundy from unpasteurized milk, and named after the town of Epoisses.
One version of Epoisses Cheese is made with “thermalized” milk (not quite pasteurization, but enough heat over a long period of time to reduce bacteria count.) Cheese producers say that it preserves more flavour than using actual pasteurized milk.
The texture can be runny enough to eat with a spoon. Because it is so soft, it is shipped in a wooden box.
- Ferme des Marronniers, Origny-sur-Seine, raw milk;
- Fromagerie d’Epoisses in Epoisses, Burgundy (closed 1999? See history below.)
- Gaugry, aka Laiterie de la Côte (raw milk), darker rind. Located in Brochon, Gevrey;
- Société Berthaut. In Epoisses. Largest producer. Uses thermalized milk since 1999.
Epoisses Cheese was reputedly started by Cistercian monks in the 1500s.
- 1835 – A fair held 4 times a year was started — “Comice Agricole pour le village d’Epoisses”, and in January 1898 the fair started expositions dedicated to cheese made in the area. The expositions stopped in 1913.
- 1913 – Fromage d’Epoisses had become well known, with 500 to 1000 cheeses sold outside the village a week
- 1914 – The First World War destroyed many of the small producers. They were recruited into the forces, and if they came back, not all went back into the cheese business.
- 1950 – Only two farms were still making Epoisses Cheese.
- 1954 – The cheese was revived by Robert and Simone Berthaut. For the previous few years, they had been supporting small producers and in1954, they began making their own Epoisses Cheese.
- 1961 – The Berthauts had to expand beyond making it on their farm. They first expanded to a small cheese factory, then had to expand beyond that.
- 1985 – The Berthauts employed 12 people. By 1992, they had became a company and had 20 people; as of 2005, more than 50 people.
- 1991 – The cheese received its AOC status.
There was a listeria scare around Epoisses Cheese in January 1999. A pregnant mother, 30 years old, in Compiègne got sick with listeria poisoning. She died after giving birth, and then her child, who was born sick, died as well at 5 weeks of age. A third person, a 71 year old woman, went into a coma (she recovered, but with after-effects.) The outbreak was traced to the Fromagerie d’Epoisses-Fromagers d’Armancon cheese factory in Epoisses, Burgundy. The maker had to destroy 200,000 of their cheeses. As soon as the news hit, sales of all Epoisses made by other people as well dropped overnight by 70%.
It turned out the listeria was actually contracted from a pasteurized milk cheese made at the plant not Epoisses Cheese. In December 2003, two of the managers were given 1 year in prison in court at Dijon for “involuntary homicide.”: Marc-Antoine Coste de Bagneaux, responsible for quality, and the head of production, Benoit Overney. The director of the plant, Jean-Pierre Fol, who was charged as well, had died in August 2003 of cancer. They were convicted of knowingly selling cheese contaminated with listeria.