Époisses 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 and named after the town of Époisses.
The texture can be runny enough to eat with a spoon. Because it is so soft, it is shipped in a wooden box.
Traditionally, the cheese was made only from raw milk. There is now also a version made from pasteurized milk, and another from “heat-treated” (aka “thermalized” milk). Behr, Edward. Époisses. St. Johnsbury, Vermont: The Art of Eating. Accessed March 2022 at https://artofeating.com/epoisses-cheese
- Ferme des Marronniers, Origny-sur-Seine, raw milk;
- Fromagerie d’Époisses in Époisses, Burgundy (closed 1999? See history below.)
- Gaugry, aka Laiterie de la Côte (raw milk), darker rind. Located in Brochon, Gevrey;
- Société Berthaut. In Époisses. Largest producer. Uses thermalized milk since 1999.
Époisses can be eaten on a plate with fruits, or melted and used a dip for crusty bread, or slipped onto boiled potatoes. It can be incorporated into a savoury pie or into sauces.
Époisses Cheese was reputedly started by Cistercian monks in the 1500s.
- 1835 — A fair called the “Comice Agricole pour le village d’Époisses” began. It was held four times a year. In January 1898 the fair started expositions dedicated to cheese made in the area, including the cheese we now call Époisses. The expositions stopped in 1913;
- 1913 — Fromage d’Époisses 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 Époisses 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 Époisses 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 French Appellation of Controlled Origin (AOC) status.
Listeria outbreak 1999
There was a listeria outbreak in which Époisses Cheese was implicated 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’Époisses-Fromagers d’Armancon cheese factory in Époisses, Burgundy. The maker had to destroy 200,000 of their cheeses. As soon as the news hit, sales of all Époisses made by other people as well dropped overnight by 70%.
More thorough investigations revealed that the listeria was indeed contracted from a cheese made at the plant, but from a pasteurized milk cheese, not Époisses. 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.
|↑1||Behr, Edward. Époisses. St. Johnsbury, Vermont: The Art of Eating. Accessed March 2022 at https://artofeating.com/epoisses-cheese|