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Nov 2, 2010 05:24 AM

Cheese Platter Help

I just ordered epoisses and grayden online. What would be good accompanyments for them? Dried fruit? Honey? Nuts? Also, could you suggest a third cheese for the platter.

Thank you so much.

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  1. I love époisses! However, I have never heard of grayden.... Epoisses is a very strong cheese and can be eaten on its own or you could have some honey, sweet caramelized onions, or a fig chutney to go on the plate. Make sure it is well rippened or the full flavor will not come through. It should not be stored in the refrigerator if that can be helped - I tend to wrap mine and put it in the cellar where it stays cool but not cold.

    When I do cheese platters I normally have an unpasteurized cow milk cheese like époisses or vacherin de mont d'or, an aged hard cheese such as gruyère, a fresh chèvre of some sort and a blue cheese or Stilton. This makes for a nice combination and will generally please everyone.

    11 Replies
    1. re: marsprincess

      This is the first time I'm purchasing either cheese. We had them at the Inn at Little Washington recently and they were incredible. I would have just stuck them in the fridge. Is it "safe" to put them in the basement? Can you tell me a little more about how you store your cheese? What do you wrap it in? Also, when I was served the epoisses it was on a spoon. Do you do the same? If so, is there any problem with a metal spoon? Thank you so much!

      1. re: DaisyM

        The époisses will arrive in a small wooden box and probably wrapped in plastic for shipping - take the plastic off right away as you don't want to trap in any moisture. Touch the top of the rind to test the ripeness of the cheese. You want it to be very soft to the touch. If it is very "solid" the cheese needs more ageing. As you were served the epiosse on a spoon that is an indication of ripeness and how it should be served. Refrigerating the cheese will make it loose its flavor and stop the ripening process. If your cheese arrives too firm you will want to store it in a slightly warmer area, if it is near its peak in a cooler area. My cellar is around 8° C this time of year and the perfect place for storing cheeses like Epoisses and Vacherin de Mont d'Or. I leave the wooden lid on the cheese box and wrap it in a slightly damp (not wet!) tea towel. This was a hint from the cheese lady years ago and it works for me. Even if you get a slight amount of mold on the rind this is ok. You should not eat the rind anyway. I have a feeling that in the U.S. your epoisses will be pasterized, and that is a shame, but if you wait until it is perfectly ripe to eat it should still be a pleasure.

        As far as the spoon goes - totally up to you. The cheese should definitely be at room temperature before you serve it. I think the wooden box is pretty so always leave it in it for serving. I also do not break the rind until I bring the cheese to the table as the smell is rather, uhm, strong - to say the least!

        good luck!

        1. re: marsprincess

          Epoisses exported to America is always pasteurized to conform to US laws. What you say about ripeness is correct. Unfortunately, Epoisses often arrives underripe. When I have the cheese sent by mail, I always ask first about the condition. Some stores (the best ones) will ensure that their cheeses are ripe before selling them; others don't.

          I disagree about not eating the rind. Epoisses is one of a small number of smear-ripened cheeses whose rind is neither gritty nor bitter and is perfectly delicious. I wouldn't think of discarding the rind. For me it is a prime part of the pleasure of eating Epoisses.

          GraySON (not GrayDEN) is another smear-ripened (washed rind) cheese made in Virginia. Compared to Epoisses, it's firmer in texture, but can be equally compelling. It's not available outside of the US, so I'm not surprised you haven't heard of it.

          1. re: cheesemaestro

            I am sure in the U.S. as the cheese is pasteurized it is ok to eat the rind. However, in Switzerland no one eats the rind and in general we are very careful to ensure that the rind stays well away from the cheese as it is a well known fact that little bacteria could be sitting there waiting to make you ill. Every year there are few cases of people coming down with illnesses from eating cheeses like Vacherin de Mont d'Or. As a matter of fact, last year or the year before there were a few people that died from eating contaminated cheese and it had a pretty negative impact locally.

            That and the fact that both Epoisses and Vacherin rinds will begin to sprout mold the riper they get - and I must say that even though I adore blue cheeses in general, the state of the rinds when they reach this stage is not very appealing to me. But, hey, to each his own I say.

            That being said, there are hundreds of Swiss that become ill and a few who die every year from eating poisonous mushrooms that they collected so we are a country willing to risk health for the fruit of fall! (That being said every Canton in Switzerland is legally obliged to have a mushroom expert available during the mushroom season to control your bounty and let you know what is good for the pot and what should be tossed!)

            About the stage of ripeness for shipping - do you believe that perhaps the cheeses are sent when they are still young to allow the receiver to ripen them in a consistent environment? Also, I believe the cheese is less fragile the younger it is - though I have no knowledge of this other than my own observation. I have noticed that when I buy such cheeses when they are fully ripe they tend to have more of a temperament than when I buy them before they are at peak.

              1. re: marsprincess

                Marsprincess, interesting about the rind of Vacherin, my favorite raclette in Switerland i thought the proprietor said it was Vacehrin, and eating the crisped rind was the best. Could I be mixig it up wth a different cheese that one might make raclette with? It was a big half wheel on a raclette machine that they would scrape right off the rind wonce heated under the lamp. Wow, now i could really go for some foncue and raclette!

                1. re: bonappetite

                  There are two very different cheeses made in Switzerland called Vacherin. One is the Vacherin Mont d'Or to which marsprincess refers in her post. It's a small format cheese. The other is Vacherin Fribourgeois, a much larger cheese that is undoubtedly the one you saw on the raclette machine.

                  1. re: cheesemaestro

                    thank you cheesemaestro!! you are rigt, it was a huge half round!! I got some here and did when I first returned from Switzerland, but that was 12 years small brain has forgotten. May have a fondue and raclette party and would love to get a quarter round of this for my machine that i've used all of 1 time! Thanks again.

                  2. re: bonappetite

                    Hi bonappetite. Raclette is a type of cheese on its own very different from Vacherin in texture and taste. There are many different Raclettes but my favorites are always bought up in the mountains. They are made from the milk the cows make in the summer when they are grazing the mountain grass rather than in the fall when they are in the pastures below. Traditionally Raclette is purchased in a half a round and swung over an open fire and then scraped off - or "racler" (hence the word raclette). More often than not today it is heated on a machine rather than a fire, but it is still very good! There are the people who love their raclette served with "les religious" or the crispy bits of rind and those who prefer it pure.

                    It is very different eating the rind off a pasteurized cheese like raclette or the rind from a cheese made with unpasterized milk and are soft cheeses such as epoisse and vacherin mont d'or. The Swiss and the French are by no means queasy about eating the rinds of cheeses, but certain cheeses are known to be more than tempting fate and the rind is avoided.

                    So, just to make you jealous - I had my first raclette of the season last weekend in our special room in the basement called a carnotzet - a unique Swiss thing I believe. Carnotzet's are fantastic places for parties and smelly food like raclette and fondue and are the traditional place for drinking parties when tasting the local fendant. I just returned from a long hike in the vineyards up to a tiny little restaurant know as the Tour de Gourze and had my first fondue of the season. ... So I am very full of cheese these days!

                    1. re: marsprincess

                      Thanks mars--i am very jealous!!! The machine i bought is just what you describe, half round cheese, swing under heat and scrape---yum. I lived in a small village near Geneve, Genolier-----we would go to our favorite plae, Les Trois Suisse, have a order or two o raclette and then share fondue---i so miss that!!! Having friends over and wondering what to it ill definitely be fondue!!!

                  3. re: marsprincess

                    Interesting. We Americans are the ones usually accused of being overly cautious with refrigeration, rinds, etc. I've been eating cheese for years and have never gotten sick from the rind. Of course, some cheeses have rinds that are inedible or unappealing.

                    If a Vacherin or an Epoisses is sprouting mold on its rind, I would certainly take that into account. However, blue, green or white molds are usually not harmful to one's health, though they taste terrible. If there were a few small spots on the rind, I would simply cut around them and discard the moldy part. Most of the Epoisses that we get doesn't have a moldy rind. That isn't necessarily a function of pasteurization, as even pasteurized cheeses can easily grow mold when spores fall on the surface.

                    Re: shipping cheese to the US. Yes, many cheeses are shipped still somewhat unripe to allow for the time in transit and possibly also because some are a little sturdier in that condition. I don't have a problem with that. My issue is with cheesemongers and mail order operations that sell these cheeses as soon as they get them in, whether ripe or not. Sometimes I want to buy cheese that I can enjoy right away or will serve soon at a gathering. If I'm at a cheese counter, I can judge the ripeness myself. However, when I'm ordering by mail (which I often do), I want to know if I'm getting something that is ready for consumption or if it will need time to mature. I've had stores tell me that a cheese was perfectly ripe when it clearly was not. Again, the better merchants don't sell a cheese until it is at, or at least near, its peak. That may be more necessary here in the US, because most consumers wouldn't know how to go about ripening a cheese and, even if they did, might not have the right environment at home to do so.

          2. Epoissess, both mine and Napolean's favorite cheese, goes really well with something sweet due to it's stong flavor. I would go with honey drizzled figs.

            1 Reply
            1. re: fitzpth

              agree on the fruit pairing, and plum or date is also a great match.

            2. The typical cheese platter contains contrasting cheeses (different strengths, milks, textures, countries, etc.). You've already gone in a different direction by choosing two "stinky" cow's milk cheeses that are both soft to semi-soft.

              One strategy would be to continue the theme of washed-rind/stinky cheeses with a third one. Taleggio, which is a milder cheese, could go with the medium-strength Grayson and full-strength Epoisses. This also gives you cheeses from three countries: Italy, the US and France.

              Or you could go with a firm cheese for texture contrast: either a bold cow's milk cheese from Switzerland (Appenzeller, Gruyere, L"Etivaz, etc.) or for milk variety, a sheep's milk cheese from Spain (Zamorano, Roncal, Idiazabal, etc.).

              1. Personally, I would remove one cheese, rather than adding a third.

                I used to serve several but, in recent years, find it much more appealing to present a generous portion of a single cheese. It's also much easier to match the accompaniements.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Harters

                  Thanks everyone. Eagerly awaiting the delivery from Murray's. And yes, it is Grayson.

                2. The original comment has been removed