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Jan 11, 2011 10:39 PM

Stinky cheese vs. cheese that's gone bad

I just picked up some tete de moine, monk's head, cheese for the first time and I need some guidance about this cheese. How you do when the cheese is supposed to smell like that vs when the smell signals that the cheese has gone bad?

This is my first brine washed cheese, and I was expecting it to be more 'aromatic' than other cheeses. But, I opened up the package, and the smell just knocked me over- it smelled like toejam and feet.

Yet, since I've never encountered this cheese before, for all I know, this cheese is supposed to smell funky like that. From the smell, how do you know when its over-ripe vs. when its gone bad to the point that you shouldn't eat it at all?

I've heard about ammonia smells signal spoilage, but I've also read that that smell is natural in some cheeses and does not necessarily indicate spoilage.

And, are there any other signals other than smell when the cheese has gone bad?

The surface of the wet is a little bit wet, but I don't see any neon colored mold on the rind. The rind is more of a muted colored orange near the center, although that rind is whitish towards the edge.

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  1. Bad cheese will have an ammonia smell.

    TĂȘte de Moine has a strong scent, but not overwhelming (IMO); if the cheese was wrapped in plastic foil, it might be too "wet" and that will make the scent a bit stronger; I suggest keeping it losely wrapped in parchement paper or aluminum foil (that's what I do)

    Also, I hope you have a "Girolle" ( to help scrap the cheese (easier than using a knife); which is the traditional way of serving the cheese.

    This image show what it should look like :

    I'm hungry now.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Maximilien

      Tete (and most other washed rind cheeses) will have a somewhat toejammy smell (after all, the bacteria on thier surface B. linens, is also found many other places, and is one of the leading components of foot odor).

      If you don't have a girolle, an ordinary knife is fine. Girolles are the custom in Switerland, but they are a conveniance, not a neccecity. And since girlolles are expensive (and not really used with any other cheese) you may not want to go through the trouble of buying one unless you absoutely fall in love with tete and plant to eat a lot of it regularly.

    2. Had the exact same experience. The smell was overwhelming. We tried to soldier on but within minutes, it became intolerable. We ended up throwing away the entire round of the tete de moine which cost about $35. Afterwards, we could still smell the cheese in the trash so we had to take the trash out. How's that for cheese?!