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What is Epoisses Cheese?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Epoisses cheese is an artisan French raw milk cheese with a characteristic strong odor and runny interior. Like many traditional French cheeses, the intense pungency of the cheese can be unappealing for some consumers, while others revel in it. In the United States, where raw milk cheeses are banned unless they have been aged for at least 60 days, a pasteurized version of Epoisses cheese is available, with a much less vibrant flavor.

The cheese originated in Epoisses, a town in the Burgundy region of France. A neighboring town, Brochon, makes a similar cheese, known as Ami du Chambertin. The cheese has been made since at least the 1700s, and is said to have been a favorite of Napoleon's. Many other famous French food critics and personalities have been fans of Epoisses cheese, which is usually served after dinner as a cheese to finish a meal.

To make the cheese, milk is gently coagulated and then drained to remove the whey. The remaining curds are salted and poured into molds without being heavily compacted. As the cheeses firm in the molds, they are washed, first in brine and later in brandy or wine. As a result, the cheeses develop a characteristic salty flavor, along with an orange to reddish rind. The cheese is allowed to age for around two months before being sent to market, and it needs to be eaten quickly.

A good Epoisses cheese will smell pungent, and will resemble a gooey paste when cut open. The cheese is often served with spoons, so that consumers can spoon the cheese out onto hearty artisan breads and some fruits. The cheese may also be paired with strong red wines and spicy whites. If the cheese smells strongly of ammonia or is intensely runny, it is no longer good to eat and it should be discarded.

In 1956, a cheesemaker named Robert Berthaut, along with his wife, became concerned about French artisan cheeses. He began to make Epoisses, along with an assortment of other cheeses. Today the Berthaut label is associated with Epoisses cheese made in the traditional style. Berthaut also makes a version which is acceptable for sale in the United States, since the milk is heated enough to kill potentially harmful bacteria. Some producers also label the cheese Epoisses de Bourgogne, to indicate that it is an authentic Epoisses cheese from Burgundy. In 1991, the cheese was awarded an Appellation of Controlled Origin, to preserve its history and integrity.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon359323 — On Dec 16, 2013

A true Epoisses is exquisite, heaven on earth.. Yes strong, yes runny, yes wonderful. Go to Bourgogne and enjoy, or stay here and eat Velveeta.

By anon310595 — On Dec 24, 2012

The first time I tried this cheese, I loved it. Now I have had it it four times from respectable sellers (Whole Foods). Every time, there has been an ammonia taste. It's terrible. I will not be buying this cheese ever again. There are far too many great cheeses out there.

By anon280821 — On Jul 20, 2012

I tried Epoisses with my wife last night. Until last night, I hadn't met a cheese I didn't like. I've got to say, I wasn't a huge fan of the Epoisses. It had such a metallic, bitter tang, it really put me off. Eating it on bread mellowed it out and made it much more bearable.

It's not that I don't love strong flavors, but I much prefer intense bleus or cheeses similar to aged gouda. This one was just too far out, not to mention expensive ($33 a pound).

By Alchemy — On Jun 21, 2011

So what makes an epoisses cheese different from, say, a gooey blue or even an older Stilton? The answer may be very obvious, but I'm a cheese neophyte. I'm really willing to learn though, so can somebody tell me a bit more?

By GiraffeEars — On Jun 20, 2011

@GlassAxe- Oh, you don't know what you're missing! When I was in Europe I got a chance to try real epoisses cheese, not the modified version we get in the states, and it is truly exquisite. I'd really recommend everybody to try it at least once -- who knows, you might find out that you have a hidden love for strong cheeses.

By GlassAxe — On Jun 18, 2011

I have to say, this doesn't really seem like something I'd be into -- come on, a "strong odor and a runny interior"? Kind of sounds like an unfortunate medical condition to me.

More power to those who do like it though -- I've always been a bit of a picky eater.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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