What is the Stinkiest Cheese Made?

Posted on 08 Feb 2014 19:32

One of the stinkiest cheeses is Limburger, named after Limburg in Belgium but now produced in Europe and in the US. This ripened whole-milk cheese has a very pungent odor reminiscent of dirty socks.

There are many other stinky cheeses, similar to Limburger. And some, unlike Limburger, which is made under sanitary and well-controlled conditions, may actually have enough nasty stuff in their birth process to equal their stench.

But, although how badly a cheese stinks could be said to be subjective, it is widely held that the stinkiest cheese in the world is Vieux Boulogne, made in northern France.

In 2004 a group of scientists as Cranfield University in England used a machine capable of detecting scents, an artificial nose, to sniff fourteen cheeses, both British and French. They selected Vieux Boulogne, which is an unpasteurized and unpressed semi-soft cheese, with an orange rind and a rubbery texture. It is aged for seven to nine weeks and, instead of smelling like dirty socks, it has a strong manure-like odor. It is produced by only a few cheese-makers in the the Boulogne area of the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France (in France known as a department).

Vieux Boulogne cheese

A square of Vieux Boulogne cheese.
image by Jeniffer (chez loulou) via Flickr

Vieux Boulogne cheese

A square of Vieux Boulogne cheese.
image by Jeniffer (chez loulou) via Flickr

The cheese is washed in beer several times during production. This process, of washing cheese in liquids such as brines or alcoholic beverages goes back to the Middle Ages. It stimulates the growth of bacteria, which produces the pungent odors. Another washed cheese tested by the researches was brandy-washed Epoisses.

This cheese is so terribly stinky that it has been banned on public transportation in France. Vieux Boulogne beat it out. In general, these types of washed-rind cheese are best eaten with bread or crackers, but can sometimes go well with apples or other foods. Their taste may be spicy, but it is not as sharp as the smell would lead you to believe, and, if you can get past the odor they can be quite enjoyable. A well-known type of washed-rind cheese is Munster. Another type is Sinking Bishop cheese, washed with a pear cider made with the Stinking Bishop pear (called a perry or poire in France).

Also known as Sablé du Boulonnais, Vieux Bolougne cheese is fairly new, and was created by cheesemaker Antoine Bernard with the assistance of Philippe Olivier. They presented the cheese in 1984 and it was so well-received, the name Vieux Boulogne was suggested in honor of it's place of creation, Boulogne, the second largest city in the Pas-de-Calais department. This would translate roughly into "old-fashioned Boulogne."

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