‘Stinky cheese’ is an official cheese category for those unfamiliar with the great wide world of cheeses. Really! They include the washed-rind cheeses, but some others as well, depending who you talk to.
These would include such well-known varieties as Muenster, Limburger, Raclette, but also some relatively new popular favorites like the Stinking Bishop of Charles Martell & Son – Cheesemakers and Distillers.
The wash-rind process used to be referred to as “putrefaction fermentation”so you can understand why they might want to change the name.
When I set out 7 years ago into the glories of cheesemaking I had no idea I’d also be making my own ‘signature’ cheeses. At the time I was responding to the sorry fact that in order to buy even a remotely decent cheese I had to drive several hours. And even then, nothing was made from raw milk. I bought freeze-dried cultures just like the vast majority of home cheesemakers do. I found a lot of success imitating the favorites—mozzarella, Pepper Jack, Camembert, Parmesan, Swiss, dozens of cheeses. I’ve tried making just about every cheese you’ve ever heard of, and quite a few unknown to even real cheese aficionados.
Of course, considering there are 1400 named cheese varieties in the world, I still have a long way to go!
But, the more I learned, the more I wanted to get back to basics. The more I got back to basics, the more I began to understand what a beneficial and even necessary learning experience it has been. Sure I can spend much time and effort recreating other people’s cheeses. But even better is to invent my own!
That means developing our ‘terroir’. No more purchased cheese cultures. Milking our own goats and making raw milk cheeses with our own wild yeasts, yogurt and buttermilk, all which change flavors and colors with the season.
Like a true Roquefort can only come from Roquefort, France and real Champagne only from Champagne. These have PDO status, that is Protected Designation of Origin.
The process is only part of the story, because the finished product is a signature of its terroir. Affinage, that is, the art of maturing the cheeses, is the next crucial component.
Not that I have any interest in throwing my cheeses into any rings with the big guys. Not a chance, even if my cheeses were that good (I think they are!). I have no interest in turning my pleasurable hobby into a stressful profession.
“In its simplest form cheesemaking is the aggregation and preservation of protein; in its highest form cheesemaking is alchemy. . . Many traditional European cheeses are on the decline or have disappeared. It is ironic that the United States is leading the resurgence of artisan cheese and is the fastest growing market for specialty cheese on the planet. Can we Americans be the saviors of French terroir? Or will our efforts to reveal our own terroir be stillborn because of insurmountable regulatory hurdles?”
Jasper Hill Farm, Greensboro VT
Anatole and the Robot (1960) — The story of a professional cheese taster whose job has gone to a robot. I think Anatole has the right idea:
“I sniff, I taste, I think, and then I use the magic of my imagination!”
The Oxford Companion to Cheese edited by Catherine Donnelly, foreword by Mateo Kehler
My favorite cheese-making book: