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Stinky Cheese Primer

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I need help.

I want to fully appreciate stinky cheese.

I'm sitting here watching football and nibbling on some Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk, and while I can certainly appreciate that this is a VERY nice cheese, this is my second time dipping into it and I'm still having a hard time getting past the funk. My tongue loves it...my nose does not. And I know that in the world of funky cheese, this is probably the kiddie pool.

To be clear...I don't HATE it. I just don't love it the way I would like to. Which is why I think there might still be a chance.

I think my problem stems from a nose that is excessively sensitive to ammonia. I would never consider myself a supertaster in any regard other than ammonia - I'm not talking about truly overripe cheese levels, I mean even the slightest hint lingers in my sinuses for days.

Is there any hope for me? Is there a stinky cheese gateway drug that will help me train up? A pairing that helps cut through the funk without covering up the good stuff (I will admit that a nice Belgian-style high-alcohol ale seems to be softening the blow today)? Any advice would be appreciated.

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  1. I love stinky cheeses, but I don't see why everyone else should. I think it actually enhances my enjoyment when people don't love it as much as I do.

    I would pair stinky cheeses with something sweet, whether or food or drink.

    Serious question: why do you want to like it more?

    2 Replies
    1. re: FoodPopulist

      Two reasons:

      1) I have acquired many tastes in my lifetime, and never write something off after the first or second try. This has often paid off long-term, and there are VERY few things I can unequivocally say I don't like. Even things that aren't my favorite, I can generally legitimately appreciate. There was a time where I didn't like fish sauce, or gin, or coffee, or any sort of liver, and now my life is richer because my parents trained me to always give things another chance.

      2) I see potential. It's not like I tried it and went, "oh! That was disgusting!" (Incidentally, this is already a big step up from my last stinky cheese purchase.) I see a lot of good things in there, and a richness of flavor that I love in other, less stinky, cheeses. So I think there's a good chance I can learn to genuinely like this. I just have to learn to get past my nose, much like I once had to learn to get past the burn of liquor, or the pain from chiles. I don't see this as all that different.

      1. re: Wahooty

        I can appreciate that. On the other hand, I've come to accept that smoked salmon makes me want to puke and I can't train myself to eat it, despite my general love for foods that are rich in umami. I feel like I should like it or at least find it tolerable, but I just can't handle the stuff.

        I also like Vegemite. Perhaps you might like using a stinky cheese as a substitute for Vegemite and cheese in various vegemite sandwiches. (I like Vegemite with butter and tomatoes, maybe also with cheese and/or bean sprouts and/or ham.)

    2. Do you have a decent cheese monger in your area? Because that's exactly what you're looking for. Off the top of my head, I would suggest you maybe start with a blue or, on the other end, a triple cream. You might also consider an aged sheep's milk cheese (maybe Manchego?). Harder cheeses will tend to be less funky smelling, while still having the full flavor.

      1. First of all, properly aged/ripened washed soft-rind cheeses should NOT smell of ammonia. If they do, they're WAY overripe & should be returned. Far too many cheese purveyors get away with selling way overripe cheeses of these type, telling their customers that "that's the way they're supposed to be". NOT TRUE!! Cheeses of this type - like Limburger, Liederkranz, Aged Brick, Aged Beer, etc., etc., are pungent yes - but ammonia smelling - NO.

        Go online & buy from a reputable cheese vendor like Murray's Cheese, Wisconsin Cheese Mart, igourmet, Gourmet Food Store, etc., etc.

        Nothing I love better than a Limburger or Liederkranz & onion sandwich on good dark bread. Yum!

        Oh, & I disagree that properly ripened strong cheeses like this pair well with sweets. Yuck. These are cheeses meant to be enjoyed with dark beer or strong red wines.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Breezychow

          Like I said, I'm abnormally sensitive - for years I have been able to smell levels of ammonia that nobody else can. I buy my good cheeses from reputable sources, and in response to gilintx, I love blues and aged hard cheeses. I'm talking about truly stinky cheese - gooey washed rind, etc.

        2. First of all, Wahooty,

          I must commend your choice of football snax - eating a 'stinky' cheese and a good belgian beer puts you far above your average sunday football-couch guy, and into the realm of gentleman and well-rounded man:)

          I have had the Red Hawk, and have found that sometimes it does give off a slightly amonia aroma when it is clearly not overripe. I wonder if their distributor does not always transport at proper temps...

          You might try Mt. Townsend Trufflestack, which is stinky in a mild way, with a very, very light truffle overtone (and does NOT taste like industrial truffle oil).
          A French Eppoisse is another lovely entree into 'stinky' cheese. Or an Aphinoise is also a reasonable entry level choice, provided on both counts that they are properly aged and sold to you at the right stage.
          I do highly reccomend Murray's cheeses for ordering on-line, as they age in their own caves here in the us, and have great relationships with European cheesmakers who have trainined them on bringing the cheeses to their caves and finishing them off properly to send to you at peak eating condition.
          You might call them on the tolll-free line, and speak to one of their affable cheese experts, and have them get you a selection to have a 'stinky' cheese neophyte party' with a few friends?

          Sometimes, in addition to belgian beer (which can be the right fit, or wine - depending on cheese), a sweet note is great with cheesy funk. Like fig preserves, or toasted nuts.

          Let us know how it goes for you! I applaude your efforts. It took me a dozen years to come to enjoy a dozen oysters on the 1/2 shell, but now I truly relish them as a sublime treat.
          We CAN train our palates.

          3 Replies
          1. re: gingershelley

            I'll be sure to let my parents know that they raised their daughter to be quite the gentleman. ;)

            Thanks, ginger. This is exactly the sort of advice I was hoping for. The Trufflestack in particular sounds like an excellent gateway drug for me - I have a hard time NOT eating anything truffle-scented.

            I'll try to track down some choice specimens and report back.

            1. re: Wahooty

              Wahooty! My GREATEST apologies for assuming you were a man. Wow, I am so embarassed!

              Just 'cause I can't love football doesn't mean that MANY ladies don't.... in fact, perhaps I should have taken it that your choice of repast for a game should have told me you were a lady beyond compare.

              DO try the Trufflestack... just got a half-round at Metropolitan Market here last week, and we had as cheese course after a lovely lamb chop dinner followed by a salad. We ate the Trufflestack with a really good ripe pear and baguette, the last of the bottle of red wine...

              You go girl!

            2. re: gingershelley

              epoisses is the world emperor of stinky cheese. i think it is my favorite cheese of all!
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Époisses...

              generally, i'm finding the unpasteurized cheeses to be the stinkiest….. we just got a corsican unpasteurized -- WHEW! a little goes a very long way. LOL

              ~~~~~
              and i second the idea of eating with your stinky cheese some walnuts and/or some slightly bitter honey -- like italian wild chestnut honey. they play well together. stilton is great this way, e.g.

            3. Most of the odor is in the rind. You don't have to eat it. Or even serve it, have you tried cutting off the rind?