History of Epoisse
This is a cheese that was created by those hard working Monks in between their making of beautiful wines, and fortifieds. I thank them nearly everyday for their determination!
Back in the 16th century Cisterian Monks started the production of this cow’s milk cheese, they used their excess wine to make a Marc de Bourgogne (which is a French style Brandy) to wash the cheese. It is washed 3 times on a weekly basis in this liquid, imparting a smoky almost ‘cured meat’ taste. I’ve known people to call this ‘bacon cheese.’
The Monks used to eat this cheese as their meat substitute on fasting days and they had over a 100 meat free days in their calendar.
However, this cheese was nearly lost during the WW2 period as cheese making was and still is a labour intensive process and was classified as men’s work, unfortunately during the war many thousands of men died and taking the cheese making knowledge with them.
Modern day Epoisse
During the 1950s a couple by the name of Robert and Simone Berthaut were determined to bring this beautiful cheese back to the fore, and it is very much thanks to this amazing couple and their dedication to making this cheese that we have it today.
It comes in a larger wheel as seen above at approximately 800g a smaller version in its own box at 200g and a mini version of 80g called a Trou du Cru, which is said to be a bit stronger in taste due to the cheese having a higher rind to paste ratio.
This cheese is best enjoyed when ripe and oozing, however be careful as it can turn to liquid and this makes it less desirable for transportation. Believe me you don’t want a bag smelling of liquid Epoisse! With many washed rind cheeses its smell is worse than its bite, so go ahead and enjoy this delicious cheese.
This is the only cheese however that is banned on all public transport in France due to its strong smell when ripe. Definitely a reason to give it a try, especially with a French crisp white wine such as a Chablis, a robust red such as a Cote de Rhone, or a heavy French Trappist beer.