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Nov 19, 2004 02:56 PM

this cheese tastes like ammonia!

  • c

after falling in love with stinky cheese on a trip to france, i've been trying to expand my horizon's in the world of cheese.

so i was very excited when i ordered affidelice from artisinal. but when i tried it, the mellow taste i was expecting was overpowered by a strong ammonia-like taste. is that normal? maybe i just got a bit out of my league in the cheese game, but i can't believe that this cheese is supposed to taste that way. has anyone else tried it?


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  1. I strong smell of ammonia in an aged cheese is usually a sign that it is over the hill. Call them and ask. THey probably need to give you a credit.

    (Because of irritating US import laws, it is very difficult to get certain cheeses into the customer and to the consumer before they are overaged._

    1 Reply
    1. re: JudiAU

      I must be a sad person.

      For my taste a good Camembert must smell of ammonia or damp nappies and run so fast that it is hard to trap it with a knife.



    2. Definately, it has gone bad. This is common with bloomy rind, semi-soft cheeses such as brie, affidelice, epoisse, camembert, etc. which, as mentioned below, have a rather short shelf life for importation. If you can't taste or smell the cheese before buying, then play it safe and stick with semi-firm or firm cheeses when buying from mail order companies.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Pat P

        To clarify, Brie and Camembert are bloomy rind cheeses, which have been sprayed with a solution containing the spores of various Penicillium species molds (don't eat them if you're allergic to penicillin!), so that they acquire a fuzzy white coating of mold that forms their rind.

        Epoisses and Affidelice are not bloomy rind cheeses, but washed rind cheeses, which are washed in some liquid (marc in the case of Epoisses, Chablis in the case of Affidelice), to promote the growth of the various bacteria and molds that form their soft, pungent, and usually brownish-orange rinds. I believe that a bacterium called B. linens is one of the more important players of the group.

        The forest of organisms that accumulates on washed rind cheeses is responsible for their characteristic stinkiness, and also some of their more wonderful flavors. Because a cheese like Affidelice is, basically, alive when you purchase it, its millions of little inhabitants are constantly emitting various waste products, among which is ammonia. This is why it's important to let cheese "breathe" by wrapping it loosely, in something like butcher paper rather than plastic wrap, and storing it in a non-enclosed area if at all possible -- this lets the ammonia (and other noxious gases) escape.

        As the original poster bought the Affidelice from Artisanal, I'll assume that it was made by Berthaut, as I've never seen Artisanal offer any other brand. "Real" Epoisses and Affidelice, made with raw milk, are illegal in the U.S., because they're aged for less than 60 days. Berthaut is the only producer I know who makes a pasteurized version that Artisanal has seen fit to sell. Berthaut's Affidelice comes wrapped in cellophane, which doesn't give it a much chance to breathe. So, if it sits around long enough, the little organisms on the cheese will eventually produce enough ammonia to give the cheese quite an unpleasant cleaning fluid odor.

        Try unwrapping the cheese and letting it air out for a while (far away from friends and loved ones who would be likely to ban your stinky new hobby!) The ammonia may dissipate, and the cheese may be restored. On the other hand, the cheese may be so permeated by ammonia that it can't be saved. If that's the case, I'd call Artisanal and see if they'll send you something else. I've bought many an Affidelice from Artisanal without having this problem, but the truth is that ammonia-soaked cheese is the result of lengthy storage within impermeable plastic wrapping, and they'll probably make it up to you. You might try to ask an informed person there for a recommended substitute. It may be that one of their other washed-rind cheeses is in especially good form right now. I had a really good washed-rind Robiola at Artisanal recently, but their mail order inventory is different from their in-store inventory, and it may not be available. I agree with Pat P that buying young, soft cheeses by mailorder is bound to be less reliable than buying firmer cheeses, but I think it's worth a shot.

        1. re: Caseophile

          Well thanks for that! Very informative, it definitely cleared up a few things for me.

          Thanks again, Caseophile!

          1. re: Caseophile

            I didn't know people allergic to penicillin couldn't eat brie or camembert! Thanks for the info!

            1. re: Janie

              What? I am allergic to penicillin and so is my husband. We both eat whatever cheese we like - brie and camembert included. That simply isn't true.

            2. re: Caseophile

              absolutely. this was extremely helpful.
              the cheese was indeed wrapped in cellophane, so i'll air it out and let folks know what happened.
              thanks again.

          2. The cheese is definitely overripe...but usually still edible. Several years ago our local French cheese factory was marking down overripe brie, and we bought a few wheels. Froze them and when thawed, mixed (half and half) with cream cheese. Didn't last long at next party.

            1. sounds like the cheese is past its prime
              call them and explain your displeasure, and I am sure Artisinal will make it right

              1. Sorry, but I call BS on the dont eat it, allergen factor.

                Im allergic to penicillin and have enjoyed all cheeses [in moderation] without any effects whatsoever for years.