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Epoisse Cheese

November 29, 2011

Époisses de Bourgogne is a cheese made in the village Époisses found in the commune of Côte-d’Or, a département of France. It is located around halfway between Dijon and Auxerre.

Commonly referred to as Époisses, it is a pungent unpasteurized cows-milk cheese. Smear-ripened (washed in marc de Bourgogne, the local pomace brandy), it is circular at around either 10cm or 18cm in diameter, with a distinctive soft red-orange colour. It is sold in a circular wooden box, and is best served with a good red Burgundy wine, or even Sauternes.

Napoleon was a particular fan of the cheese and the famous epicure Brillat-Savarin himself classed it as the “king of all cheeses”.


At the start of the sixteenth century, the village was home to a Cistercian community at L’Abbaye de Citeaux that, according to oral legend, began production of the cheese. Two hundred years later, when the community left, they left local farmers the recipe, which developed over the next century. Although popular at the start of the 20th century, with over 300 farms manufacturing the cheese, production had all but died out by the end of the Second World War. This resulted from the loss of a significant portion of the male population, leaving the women to work the fields, which in turn led to the neglect of the local dairy businesses and cheese-making.

In 1956, a pair of small farmers, Robert and Simone Berthaut, decided to re-launch the production of Époisses by mobilizing the traditional skills of those who still knew how to make the cheese. Berthaut Époisses increasingly gained favor among its devotees and became a spectacular success. The business is now carried on by their son, Jean Berthaut. Fromagerie Berthaut is currently responsible for the manufacture of all fermier Époisses, although several artisanal fromageries now manufacture the cheese.

At the first stage of manufacture the whole milk is heated to around 30°C with the coagulation lasting for at least 16 hours. The fragile curds are drained in moulds, and the whey then allowed to run off. Around 48 hours later the cheese is removed, salted, and placed on racks to dry.

Once dry, they are moved to cellars to mature. Each is rinsed up to three times per week in a mixture of water and marc, and brushed by hand to spread the bacteria evenly over the surface. The yeast and fermenting agents produce the distinctive orange-red exterior, as it develops over a period of around six weeks.

the king of cheeses


Epoisses is not as old or renowned as Roquefort (see below); but it can boast a legitimate claim to the crown, thanks in part to two distinguished fans: Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the influential 18th century gastronome, and Napoleon Bonaparte, the late emperor-king of just about everything. It was Brillat-Savarin, philosopher-gourmand, who dubbed Epoisses the king of cheeses — a declaration not to be dismissed, considering the seriousness with which he regarded cheese. (“A desert without cheese is like a beautiful woman who has lost an eye,” he wrote, not quite in jest.)

If you have the chance to taste some ripe, runny Epoisses, you might be surprised by its powerful odor, which has proven offensive to many. There are even rumors that it was banned on public transportation in France. Napoleon had his peculiarities — but how, you might ask, could a sophisticated connoisseur like Savarin love a cheese that smelled to heaven? Well, legend has it that his culinary aesthetic was so enlarged, so distinguished, that he would carry dead birds around in his pockets so he could savor the aroma.
In 1991 the cheese was awarded AOC status, which states that the manufacture must follow the following rules:

The milk’s coagulation must be performed by lactic acid and continue for 16 hours.
The curd must be cut roughly as opposed to being broken.
After drainage, only dry salt may be used.

Under AOC regulation the cheese may only be made in listed communes in the Côte-d’Or, Haute-Marne, and Yonne departments.

You con find and order Epoisse Cheese On french Gourmet Hong Kong Fine food online shop
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