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Washed Rind Cheeses - Cheese of the Month (November 2013)

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The Cheese of the month for November is washed rind. These are cheeses where the rind is washed with a solution, usually brine but sometimes wine, beer or fruit juice. The liquid moistens the rind and promotes the growth of bacteria which impart flavors to the cheese. The bacteria also impart aromas to cheese. Some of the bacteria are similar to ones found on the human body and some washed rind cheeses have been described as smelling like feet or BO (there is even one called “Stinking Bishop”).

Washed rind cheeses are thought to have originated in monasteries. Monks found that washing the cheeses imparted meaty flavors, so the cheeses were like a substitute for meat.

I first became aware of washed rind cheeses in the early 90s. I was a cheese novice and was in graduate school. This great professor I knew had just come back from France with a stinky cheese in her bag. She was trying to get people in the department to taste the cheese. But no one wanted to taste this super smelly cheese. Except my future husband and I who were adventuresome eaters. "This is the best cheese in the world. It's called Epoisse. You have to try it". So we tried it. Our first impression was that the cheese did not taste at all like it smelled. The flavor was not as strong as I imagined and was not at all funky or stinky tasting. It was like fondue made with a really flavorful yummy cheese. I loved the silky texture and the salty rich umami flavor. A few years later I started working in Berkeley and heard about this great cheese store called the cheeseboard. On my first visit I saw Epoisse. I got excited because I thought that this was a cheese you could only get in France. I brought one home and we loved it and I started trying other washed rind cheeses. I have been hooked since.

Many people shy away from washed rind cheeses because of a perception that they are too strong and stinky. Unless they are over ripe and ammoniated, washed rind cheeses like Epoisse are not that strong tasting. I have read in descriptions of washed rind cheeses that their bark is worse than their bite. This is true. As I found with my first taste of Epoisse, the cheeses might smell stinky but they don't taste stinky. There are also mild washed rind cheeses that don’t stink as much.

Some of these cheeses might be harder to obtain than others. I have several recommendations but if you can’t find them please substitute another washed rind cheese. Or if there is one you especially love that I have not listed please tell us about it. I encourage people to look on online sites like igourmet (http://www.igourmet.com/) which has a very nice selection of washed rind cheese.

Also please report on beverages that you pair withy these cheeses. Many of these cheeses are washed with wine, beer or cider so experiment.

Certain washed rind cheeses, the ones meant to be soft and pungent, are sometimes sold under ripe and hard. If you like milder cheeses you might actually like the more under ripe versions better. But the more ripe versions are much more flavorful and represent what the cheeses are really about. To really appreciate these cheeses you need to try the ripe versions. If one seems hard, you can try to age it in your fridge or a couple weeks. For last month’s COTM I bought a half piece of cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam. It was very hard when I bought it. I let it sit in my fridge for two or three weeks and it softened up a bit and started to develop a more liquidy layer under the rind. When I finally tried it was great. Here is some advice from Delucacheesemonger from last month’s discussion for a way to age Red Hawk:

“l buy them when there and invariably they are as hard as a baseball as W(t)F ages nothing in the aging room, l worked at three of them and the one in rural Toronto (Mississauga) did, but the two in the states did not. Keep cheese whole and open 2-3 weeks past the sell by date and usually works and turns into goo.”

So people might want to stock up on thee cheeses now and allow them to age a couple of weeks in the fridge if they seem very hard.

I am going to try something different with how the thread is organized. The purpose will be to try to keep the discussions on a particular cheese grouped together so they are easier to follow. I am going to add each suggested cheese as a reply to this post. When discussing a particular cheese, reply to post for that specific cheese. If you are discussing a cheese not included in the suggestions introduce it with a reply to this original post. I am not sure if this system will work better but we can give it a try.

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  1. ALSATIAN MUNSTER. Washed rind from France. Well regarded by cheese connoisseurs. Hard to find. Had one earlier this year and it was amazing. Currently out of stock at igourmet.


    GRES D' ALSACE. French washed rind sold as small ovals with a leaf on top.


    Supposed to be similar to Alsatian munster. I have seen this one in different markets so I think it should be not too difficult to find. I had one this weekend and it was outstanding. Silky smooth thick creamy paste with intense satisfying cheese umami flavor.

    16 Replies
    1. re: Ridge

      The variety I tried was Gres des Vosges (but that was from Alsace and had the orange rind show in your pic so I assume it is the same cheese). Aged 1 month. Stinky but fairly mild. I was not impressed. You must have gotten a better sample than I had.

      1. re: DonShirer

        The one I had this weekend was one I just got at the Berkeley Bowl in Berkeley CA. The expiration date on the cheese was April 2013! It was just perfect. I get the sense a lot of these cheeses are unfortunately released too under ripe.

          1. re: fldhkybnva

            Give it a light squeeze. It should feel like the inside is soft.

            1. re: Ridge

              When bought at the store right? Or will a cut piece age at home?

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                A cut piece will not age at home. It can get dry but it ceases to ripen.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Okie, that's what I always thought just wanted to double check.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Melanie, I know you know, and I'm curious - why would a cut piece cease to ripen? Thanks.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      I don't know the why. But if you think about it, most cheeses ripen from the outside surface inward in a complex cascade of enzymatic, chemical and bacterial reactions. When you cut into an intact cheese, you introduce a rush of oxygen that can alter or terminate those delicate processes. They do continue to change, but I consider that degradation and not ripening. Vacuum packing can slow down or suspend ripening, so that also speaks to the role of oxygen.

                      Some years ago at a tasting of Marin French cheeses, the cheesemaker pointed out one of its cheeses (wish I could recall which one) that would continue to ripen after cut because the bloomy mold would regrow readily on the cut surface at refrigerator temperature. Maybe with those two clues you can find the real answer and let us know.


                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        This has me wonder whether cutting up a chunk of cheese with a short shelf life could prolong it a bit.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          No, not really. But that's getting too far off topic for this thread which will become unwieldy soon. I'd suggest that you start a new topic or ask the mods to split off this tangent with an appropriate title. We'll all be better served.

            2. re: Ridge

              I was going to suggest to the Bay Area folks, if you are in the vicinity of the Berkeley Bowl west and are interested in tasting this cheese, see if they still have some of the ones with the April 2013 expiration date.

              1. re: Ridge

                I was curious if having a less aged Gres des Vosges would be as good. The one I had in October had an expiration date of Aril 2013. It tasted perfect. I just tried one that has not reached its expatriation date. It was just meh. It really is a shame these cheeses are sold without being aged enough for the cheeses to reach their full potential. Have been thinking of getting a little fridge to set to 50 degrees to dedicate for aging cheeses. Husband sais "isn't there enough stuff we need to buy?"

                1. re: Ridge

                  You can compromise on 55 degrees and mature your wine in it too. ;)

            3. re: Ridge

              I recently tried Alsatian Muenster and while I really wanted to like it, I didn't. It was just too much funky feet for me. I'm not sure why the smell of the washed-rind cheeses seems to translate into a funky taste for me but that's been my general experience.

              1. re: Ridge

                Tasted an Alsatian munster last night. Moderately strong tasting with a very good mouth coating texture. Barnyard and Umami flavors. It was very good but this particular one was not as good as the ripe Gres d' Alsace we tasted last week or the Epoisse we tasted the same time.

              2. CHIMAY- should be commonly available. A Belgian cheese washed in Beer. Not as strong as some of the others but very good.


                1 Reply
                1. re: Ridge

                  Last night we tasted CABRICHARME. This is a Belgian washed rind goat cheese made in a similar way as Chimay.

                  You can read more about it here:



                  Here are my tasting notes:

                  Rind was hard, so we ate it without the rind. Semi-soft. Husband though the consistency was similar to Havarti. Not strongly goaty. Not super strong but the flavor was very rich. Flavor was kind of nutty and reminded me a little bit a goat flan I make. I really enjoyed it and would get it again.

                2. I am a big fan of Epoisses. The most common type I can find is the pasteurized Berthaut made for export. One year I sent several small wheels as Christmas gifts, and I double wrapped them in Saran, then foil. The postal clerk could still smell them! The bark is indeed stronger than the bite.
                  In November my friend Delucacheesemonger is returning from France with some of the real deal for me to try for the first time, I look forward to it.
                  I think I recall reading that it is washed with a brandy-like liquid. I can't disagree with whoever called Epoisses the king of cheeses.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Veggo

                    Already vacuum packed and ready for travel back to the states.

                  2. EPOISSE. A French cheese washed in Brine.

                    I encourage people to read the description on Wikipedia which is very interesting and informative:




                    We have recently been discussing Epoisse on this board:



                    Epoisse is available in different sizes, from individual wheels to a very large sized Epoisse sold as slices. I have found Epoisse can vary from batch to batch. The large sized version may be more consistent in terms of quality and balance.

                    There is also CHABLIS(AFFIDELICE), a cheese made by one of the main producers of Epoisse. It is essentially an Epoisses washed with Chablis.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Ridge

                      I'm probably in the minority, but I prefer the milder Langres, made in the same Champagne region, to the more pungent Epoisses.

                      1. re: DonShirer

                        If you like Langres, too mild for me, you will probably like Soumaintrain from the same region, a little wetter, but not stronger than Langres

                      2. re: Ridge

                        Tasted some Epoisses last night. This was a small slice from a big wheel. Loved it. Very well balanced. Not too salty. Some barnyard aromas but not too much. Pungent, runny, slightly tangy, full flavored, umami and meaty flavors. Our favorite of the 5 washed rind cheeses we tasted.

                        1. re: Ridge

                          Last night I tried Trou de cru. This is a mini Epoisses produced by Berthaut, one of the main producers of Epoisses. It's no larger than 2 inches in diameter. We have tried it in the past but not in a very long time. I was a bit concerned because sometimes smaller wheels of Epoisses can be overly salty. But this mini Epoisses was excellent. Silky texture, perfect amount of funk, deep umami flavor. It was by far the favorite of the cheeses we tried last night. It paired nicely with a Spanish oloroso sherry. Only problem is we wanted more.

                        2. STINKING BISHOP. An English cheese washed in Pear wine.

                          Difficult to find but I saw some on igoumet and plan on ordering some from there. One of my favorite cheeses. But it can be over-the-top if it’s over-ripe.


                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Ridge

                            I had some last year. Not very stinking, and not very striking either...in fact too bland to put on my buy again list.

                            1. re: DonShirer

                              Must have been an under-ripe batch. I have had ones that are under-ripe and I agree they are bland. I have also had over-ripe ones and they are way too strong. But if you get a ripe batch its amazing. I guarantee.

                          2. MARIN FRENCH SCHLOSS. An Austrian style washed rind from California. Never tried this one but looking forward to tasting it.


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Ridge

                              I made a trip to the factory to pick up the Schloss. The oldest lot on hand had a mature by date of November 30. When I asked whether there was anything older so I wouldn't need to wait two weeks, I learned that this cheese has a two-year shelf life!

                              I forgot that I had it in the trunk of the car, and it wound up staying at room temperature for three days. But even that treatment didn't create the squoosh factor I was seeking. I finally served it Friday night, 11/29, leaving it out of the fridge for four hours to warm up. Cutting it in half to serve, the paste was not chalky but had a solid quality to it, as depicted below. As the cheese approached room temperature, the aroma bloomed considerably to have a rounded meaty tone and sweaty notes. On the salty side, the flavor's quite deep and more complex than the Rush Creek Limburger. Not nutty in the Alpine way, but more like blanched almond, and very rich buttery flavors mingled with earth. The cheese plated ended up next to me when the table was cleared for after dinner games. After another hour or so, I had to remove the plate to the kitchen because the scent was getting overpowering.

                              The second half of the cheese stayed out of the fridge until Saturday's dinner. But for the plastic wrapping, this might have turned into a puddle. Interestingly, the cheese had a decided oozy, gooey layer under the rind that was not present the day before, and the soft paste almost looked melted. The flavor and aroma were even more pronounced, and the fattiness made for a very rich cheese.

                              This cheese really loved red wine. Friday it was served with 1999 Joseph Swan "Stellwagen" Sonoma Valley Zinfandel, and Friday, with 2008 Merry Edwards "Meredith Estate" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

                            2. LIMBURGER. Well known stinky cheese. Should be commonly available. Originally from a region known as Duchy of Limburg (now divided among Belgium, Germany, and Netherlands), it is currently produced in Germany, Belgium, Wisconsin & Michigan in the US and New Hamburg in Canada.

                              Very interesting information on Wikipedia that I recommend people read:


                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Ridge

                                I buy and enjoy the Wisconsin Limburger from my regular supermarket. Lots of stink for a fair price - about 5 bucks for an 8 oz. bar. Goes well with prosciutto on crackers. Best at room temp.

                                1. re: Ridge

                                  In May I had my first taste of Limburger after an absence of 20+ years, as detailed in this thread.

                                  That example was not nearly as smelly as I remembered. I thought it might have been that I opened it too soon, even after leaving it out at room temperature for a few days to advance the aging process. So for washed rind cheese month, I tried to find an older example and picked up another Honey Creek from Wisconsin. One lonely brick marked "use by 09/11/13" was in among some younger ones. At this point, my purchase date was more than two months past the dating.

                                  Letting it come up to room temperature, this one was softer and more sway back that the previous example. The odor was considerably more pungent, yet even though overdue, there was no hint of ammonia in the aroma or taste. Just a powerful stink. I found that I needed to slice this thinner and spread it out, as the taste was much, much stronger than before. Otherwise, it would taste like something died in your mouth. We've been eating it on whole grain seeded bread. My mom loves it.

                                  I still like it quite a bit for the nutty Alpine flavor profile combined with the washed rind complexity. It packs a lot of character into a low price package.

                                  Now I need to find a non-Wisconsin version for comparison's sake.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    Last night I tried a German Limburger. I think it was past it's prime. It was very ammoniated and this interfered with the enjoyment. And apart from the intense ammonia quality there was not much flavor there.

                                    1. re: Ridge

                                      $13.45, whoa. Compared that to the photo of a different German Limburger at Safeway for $6.99, though the one you purchased is labeled 50% fett vs. 40% fett for the lesser priced one.

                                2. OKA, A Canadian Cheese washed in Brine.

                                  Never tried this one but I have a piece in my ridge.

                                  Was discussed by grayelf in the October COTM:

                                  “Did you find any oka, jpr54_1? I did, in my cheese drawer in the fridge :-). I always feel better if there is a wedge of it on hand. The piece I had was smallish and not too ripe but not bland either. The texture is one of my favourites in cheese land, not hard but not soft. Since I was noshing on my own, I did cut off the rind but the flavour was still pronounced enough. Although I often enjoy the paste of wash rind cheeses, I sometimes balk a the slight sandiness/graininess in the rind.

                                  I like oka just a tiny bit colder than many other cheeses, as it tends to sweat a bit at room temp, and lose the texture I seek. That might explain why I don't like it melted on or in things either. Oka is an original Canadian cheese, and one the I am proud of as a Canuck."

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Ridge

                                    unfortunately my local Whole Foods did not have oka-

                                    1. re: jpr54_1

                                      There are several versions of Oka available at igoumet:


                                      We tasted an Oka last night from the Cheeseboard in Berkeley. It was mild, yet had lots of satisfying buttery flavor. We tasted the cheese by itself and with some tasted baguette. It tasted better by itself. Very good overall, I would buy it again.

                                  2. Great introduction! I am generally not a fan of any of these cheeses that I've tried but I'll play along.

                                    1. Washed rind cheeses are not my favorite type, but there are two American brands that are worth trying.

                                      Alpha Tolman (Jaspar Hill, VT) is a raw cow alpine cheese like Emmenthal or Tilsit. Aged 8-11 months, it is pleasant and meltable.

                                      Grayson (Meadow Creek Farms, VA) is reminiscent of Taleggio. It softens with age, and is a favorite of my wife.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: DonShirer

                                        I've actually pondered both of those in a few of my cheese shop journeys. I'm surprised the Alpha Tolman is washed rind, I guess I rarely consider it with firmer cheeses which doesn't make sense. I've also seen the Grayson and I think made by the same farm that makes Appalachian which I really like although not a washed-rind. Thanks for the suggestions, perhaps this is where I'll start. I've Tilsit counts, I love that! I guess I'm really learning about what's washed and not this month already .

                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                          I picked up the Alpha Tolman last week. It's ok but not very memorable. It reminds me of a Gruyere with less intense and complex flavors. I did a little reading online and it seems that many agree that the cheese is still evolving and might improve as they figure out the best length of time to age this relatively new cheese.

                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                            Gruyere is also a washed rind cheese.

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                              Going to have to disagree with you on that Melanie. Gruyere is called a hard, sometimes a pressed cheese.
                                              Yes it is brined at the beginning of aging, but just flipped every few days after that.
                                              Generally washed rind makes a cheese that is like my license plate, stinky.

                                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                Oh, is that it. I thought maybe you were having difficulty washing those hard-to-reach places.
                                                I finished up the Gaugry Epoisses today, thanks again, DCM.

                                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                  Yea I was confused by that too, never thought of gruyere as a classic washed rind

                                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                    A month ago, before we embarked on Washed Rind Cheese month, I would have agreed with you entirely. But now I'm on the fence, actually a little on the other side of said fence. Gruyere is indeed more commonly categorized as a hard or pressed cheese or sometimes just called an Alpine cheese, and that's what I'll continue to use. However, in my reading this month about washed rind cheeses, I came across several references to Gruyere as a washed rind cheese, including this one from Culture magazine,
                                                    "Famous washed rind cheeses include Limburger, Vacherin Mont D’Or, and Taleggio, which is less assaulting than its other European counterparts. You might not know that Gruyère and Morbier are also washed rind cheeses. American washed rinds are having their time in the sun, too. Winnimere, Red Hawk, and Dorset are some of the few stinky specimens popping up at cheese counters across the country. Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk, known as the “gateway” washed rind cheese, is made from a triple cream recipe and has mild rind."

                                                    Then I wondered what kind of washing process takes place. Le Gruyere AOC's website describes the maturation process,
                                                    "After twenty hours in the press, the cheeses are im
                                                    -mersed in a salt water bath (20% salt) where they
                                                    will absorb half of the final salt content. The cheese
                                                    maker’s job continues up to the last day of storage
                                                    in a cellar climatized at 13° -14° where there is a
                                                    slightly ammoniac odor typical to the maturation
                                                    of Gruyère AOC. The rind protects the interior of
                                                    the cheese and is the origin of this specific atmos
                                                    -phere. During the first ten days, the cheeses are
                                                    turned and rubbed with a salt water solution daily.
                                                    Then, twice a week for three months and again
                                                    once a week, until they are sold, they are turned
                                                    and rubbed with lightly salted water only. "

                                                    But that only refers to a brine and I was curious what critters might be on the rind to cause the "ammoniac odor" referenced above. Reporting a study funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, _Letters in Applied Microbiology_
                                                    Vol 29 Issue 5, "Analysis of brevibacteria on the surface of Gruyere cheese detected by in situ hybridization and by colony hybridization" states in the introduction:
                                                    "The ripening process of a cheese is one of the most significant factors in its quality development. For a certain group of cheeses (e.g. Gruyère, Tête de moine, Münster and Tilsit), the formation of a viscous, red-orange surface layer (‘smear’) is necessary for the final organoleptic properties ( Reps 1993). During the ripening process, micro-organisms thrive on the surface of the cheese. In the first place, the lactic acid which is produced by lactic acid bacteria is metabolized by yeasts. Subsequently, the cheeses are washed several times with a brine that has been inoculated either with the microflora of ripe cheeses or with Brevibacterium linens as the sole organism ( Eliskases-Lechner & Ginzinger 1995; Valdes-Stauber et al. 1997 ). When the pH of the curd rises to 6·5–7, the growth of salt-tolerant micro-organisms, such as Micrococcus spp., Arthrobacter spp., Corynebacterium spp. and Brevibacterium spp., is promoted ( Reps 1993; Bockelmann et al. 1997a )." And concludes in the results:
                                                    "The major proportion of the bacteria belongs to the Actinobacteria and about 10% to the brevibacteria, which are often introduced as the starter culture. It can be concluded that, if a starter culture contains B. linens as the sole culture organism, it may constitute a minor part of the surface flora of the mature cheese. For the broad organoleptic properties of a cheese, several starter organisms are necessary, favouring the use of a mixture of organisms as ripening starters."

                                                    Finally, this piece for home cheesemaking describes the author's understanding of the basic wash types used in Switzerland (and I have no idea if this is accurate or not),

                                                    While Gruyere is not as stinky as some of the most odoriferous washed rind cheeses, it still is smelly. I'm wondering if the lower moisture content and greater age of the firm cheese contribute to this.

                                          2. Please note Epoisses has an 's' at the end of the word.

                                            Gres d' Vosges is a pasteurized export version of Muenster.
                                            While Muenster is an inexpensive washed rind and wonderful, the Gres is usually a disappointment for me, very mild but with good texture.

                                            Another French washed rind that is quite famous and one of my favorites is Maroilles from near Lille in northern France. Washed with a mixture of brine and beer it is shaped like a square brick and when aged properly truly reeks.

                                            The washed sheep's milk cheeses of Corsica should be mentioned as well. Products like a fileta and a pecorino seem to have a bit less salt than their mainland competitors and when ripe and gooey are wonderful.

                                            When blessed with too much of a washed rind, a good solution is to sweat onions in butter and add cooked potatoes unpeeled but in reasonable chunks and plop a very large hunk of Epoisses, Muenster,Ami d'Chambertin, or other appropriate washed rind cheese on the top and bake for 20 minutes or so. While tartiflette started with Reblochon, l find the washed rind ones are far superior.

                                            1. Ridge, my Jeep carried the sweet smell of wash rind cheeses from point A to point B this morning as I leaped into some new choices.

                                              I selected French sheep's milk Le Napoleon, Spanish Queso Sudado as well as Drunken Goat. The kind and knowledge folks at Sickles Market in Little Silver, NJ were more than happy to help me select and taste several others and a big bag of groceries later (bought three Cypress Grove cheeses as well and quite a few nibbles) I arrive home ready to sample the next few days.

                                              I'll be baaaaaaack!

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                Just went to Bouhait's store in the Pyrenees, he is the only affineur/maker on Napolean cheese.
                                                It cost me 21 euros/kg at his store or $13/lb, good product.

                                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                  $26.99 a lb here, I bought a wedge for $13.00. I really liked the sample I tasted.

                                                  This particular market is a (rewarding) distance from my place but they carry everything I have ever read about on CH's Cheese board.

                                                2. re: HillJ

                                                  I served all three of these cheeses at our spook fest last night. The Le Napoleon was super tasty and judging by the empty dessert tray the big hit. Definitely grassy and buttery.


                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    Just tried some of the Spanish Queso Sudado left over from the party and the funk is truly in the rind while the cheese has a nice salty, semi firm texture/flavor. I enjoyed it with a small piece of red wine infused salami and a nutty fig cake. Flavors all over the place!

                                                  2. Ran to WF and bought Red Hawk. I really love this cheese. Now with a few other CC's under my belt, I know this one's my favorite. This time, I'll be following the advice posted on aging.

                                                    13 Replies
                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                      Forgot to put in the Red Hawk descrption:

                                                      Red Hawk. Made by Cowgirl Creamery in California. Washed in Brine. I heard one of the owners of Cowgirl give a talk several years ago. She said the Red Hawk was an experiment that came out very different than they expected. She said their intention was not to make an Epoisse like cheese.


                                                      Drake. Also from Cowgirl Ceamery. This cheese is rarely available but if you see it I recommend you get some. It’s one of my all time favorite cheeses. Washed in Muscat wine and topped with macerated currants.

                                                      Here is a thread on the Drake from the SF board:

                                                      1. re: Ridge

                                                        Ridge, do you recall which thread the CC video is linked to.. that expressed how Red Hawk was produced?

                                                        1. re: Ridge

                                                          Tried red hawk this week. We really enjoyed it and the piece I purchased was not at peak ripeness so I am excited to try it again. I didn't think it was particularly pungent or but maybe that was because of the ripeness? Loved the flavor, will definitely buy again.

                                                          1. re: Ridge

                                                            RED HAWK by Cowgirl Creamery

                                                            Late posting, but tasted in November. I purchased a whole round ($20) on October 29 in anticipation of a month of washed rind cheeses. The round was fairly firm to the touch. It had a sticker on the wrapping that said "00254". This is the Julian date corresponding to September 11 indicating the date the milk from Straus Dairy was pasteurized. A round from the same batch was cut in half so I could readily see the state of maturity. The cream line was still firm and while there was some softening of the outer edge paste, the chalky center was about an inch high. The cheesemonger did not have any advice on how long to hold it to reach the ooze stage. He did suggest that I unwrap it at home and keep sniffing it to judge maturity.

                                                            So, I reached out to a contact at Cowgirl for when this cheese might hit the stage of maturity I wanted. He said that the lots of Red Hawk that turn oozy start to do so in week 6, and that my cheese was already 7 weeks old. He said he would be surprised if this one would ever get oozy, as the ones that do will break down and hit that point before 7 or 8 weeks of age.

                                                            Then I asked if seasonal changes in butterfat content affect the prognosis for ooze. He said that the butterfat % alone cannot predict ooziness. Butterfat is higher when the cows have a greater amount of fresh grass in their diet. The propensity for ooze is related to the amount of moisture in the cheese. Applying the standard process for making Red Hawk when the butterfat % is higher results in a higher moisture cheese. Cowgirl has opted to not change processes throughout the year. This means that the cheeses will show some seasonal variability.

                                                            My take-away from this is that the best time to age Red Hawk would be to buy a round produced when the hills of Marin start to green up in winter time. That has not happened yet as we're experiencing drought with only one small rainstorm this season and none forecast until January.

                                                            Getting back to the specifics of the "00254" round I purchased, I took it out of the refrigerator for 36 hours before serving on November 7, or at 8 weeks of age. It was still somewhat firm. Meaty, earthy stink to the rind but not effusively so. Cutting into it, the texture of the paste was still at the fudgy stage, crumbling around the edges of a cut and not that easy to spread. This one had an even larger chalky center than the example I viewed two weeks earlier. The sweet dairy flavors of the triple cream cheese dominated with minimal ripened influence.

                                                            This one did not move me. I'll try another once we have rain in Northern California.

                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                              Here's what the inside of the Red Hawk looked like on November 7 at 8 weeks of age.

                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                              Semi firm but creamy, super stinky and it made my nose tingle. Laying against a freshly toasted bialy with honeycomb I was very happy. However, I did not see the advice offered about aging it. I didn't do anything but slice & enjoy so now I'm going to follow advice and see what happens.

                                                              Also I've read it's a triple cream but I didn't find it super wet/creamy...might be the age thing. Today I paid $27.00 for the round @ WF.

                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                Tried some Red Hawk last night. This one has been sitting in my fridge for a while (about 3 weeks or 1 month ). As has been discussed here keeping them in the fridge can help them ripen. However mine was a half (though well wrapped in many layers of plastic wrap) and not a whole so this may have impeded the ripening process.

                                                                I have had this cheese in the past and I know that it can vary in terms of ripeness and overall enjoyment. In the past we have versions that are buttery and creamy with layers of umami meaty funkiness. The one we had last night was disappointing. On good versions the rind will be pink and slightly tacky (due to the bacteria on the surface). The rind on this one was brownish and dry. The paste itself was buttery but one dimensional. No hint of the deep satisfying flavors of past versions I have tried. Next time I will make sure to buy one that clearly looks and feels more soft and ripe.

                                                                1. re: Ridge

                                                                  Ridge, your notes are appreciated and helpful to buying future Red Hawk. Thank you for including your experience here.

                                                                  1. re: Ridge

                                                                    You might want to try this "brine therapy" advice offered in the Taleggio thread the next time you come across a brown and dry washed rind.

                                                                  2. re: HillJ

                                                                    Here's a link to Delucacheesemonger's advice on aging Red Hawk. To age it further at home, don't slice into it. The cheese needs to stay whole.

                                                              2. We have a Preferre de Montagne which will be ripe to try this weekend. I'll report back. A friend recommended it as a washed rind cows milk, pasteurized, but with a similarity to Reblochon. As soon as I can get past the cost of the Jasper Hill's washed rind (gulp!) I'm trying that. Will report back on both of these.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: teezeetoo

                                                                  Consuming a Reblochon as l type. Wonderful product that is such as l do not try pasteurized replicas when in States.
                                                                  Winnimere OTOH is as good as any washed rind the world has to offer, in my top 20 cheeses, and top 5 American.

                                                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                    will try - thanks as well as the Gbaietou if I can find it.

                                                                2. Gbaietou for breakfast. This cheese has really grown on me and now I can't get enough. Just funky enough for me without being overwhelming. Nice creamy texture and great to eat out of hand.

                                                                  1. wow-I have alot to sample this month-
                                                                    not sure where I should begin-any suggestions

                                                                    1. At a recent New Amsterdam Market event in Manhattan, I picked up an eight ounce wheel of Willoughby, a washed rind cheese from Jasper Hill Farms. It has a fresh and rather ephemeral flavor, pretty but not particularly assertive. It would be a good choice for those who prefer a light suggestion of stink, rather than something that takes over the house.


                                                                      21 Replies
                                                                        1. re: small h

                                                                          Allow me to add Drunken Goat as another of the less assertive washed rinds while still very tasty sliced; eaten in hand.


                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                            Perhaps because Drunken Goat is not a washed rind. It is a plopped rind.

                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                I haven't heard of 'plopped' since the Alka Seltzer commercials. I look forward to more cheese-speak from DCM in ...10 days.

                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                  Me too. Unless soaking and washing are significantly different treatments of the cheese...always learning.

                                                                                  I sure enjoyed the taste of DG.

                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                    My guess is that washing and soaking or covering are different because the point of washing is not to infuse the cheese with flavor, but to develop b. linens bacterium on the surface. It's the bacterium that makes it stinky.

                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                      I think I'm understanding the infusion part and that one way to infuse flavor is to develop the bacterium surface. That's one category, yes?

                                                                                      But is soaking a cheese in wine, beer, other liquids still considered infusing and do these cheese fall under the washed rind still?

                                                                                      While true, the DGoat isn't as strong as others I'm trying like the French sheep's milk Le Napoleon or the Spanish Queso Sudado it does have flavor infused by the wine.

                                                                                      Still learning.

                                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                                        Le Napoleon is not WR either, nor particularly strong, very good, but not strong.

                                                                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                          Okay, now I'm laughing. A cheesemonger sold me three cheeses as washed rind and two of the three cheeses I purchased as washed rinds, weren't?

                                                                                          How about that. All tasty milk in rind clothing.

                                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                                            Beware the cheese wolves, HJ !

                                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                                              As long as we're enjoying the cheeses and I am willing to pay the price per lb, I suppose...but, I should understand what I'm buying! Or...should the cheesemonger know what they are selling? Hmmm...

                                                                                            2. re: HillJ

                                                                                              Of course they should but with the menial salaries paid 'mongers, sometimes they do not.

                                                                                              l worked at a very established gourmet store with a large cheese department some years back. The woman who was the manager and had been there for four years or so before l came on the scene was not too knowledgeable. All cheeses, l said ALL cheeses, were precut and saran wrapped.When asked about a particular product she either described it as 'a good cheese' or 'a very good cheese'.
                                                                                              As far as l knew she had never tasted any cheese.

                                                                                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                                That's one thing I've always appreciated about the Cheeseboard in Berkeley. They always offer a taste and the person waiting on you almost always cuts a taste for himself.

                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                  Sickles Market/Little Silver/NJ is where I went shopping. Very popular place, large cheese department inside a large market. High end by most standards and I spent $200.00 that day on all sorts of food stuffs. Nearly $100.00 in cheese.

                                                                                                  The gal selling me the cheeses was tasting right along with me; explaining, recommending, and wrapping my order. She spent at least 20 mins with me. So I can't fault her for not tasting. I'm guilty of not having enough knowledge to know that what she was selling me wasn't exactly what I thought I was buying. Even though, I specifically asked for washed rind cheeses, while buying quite a few other types. Of course, I don't know what she's paid but that part of the selling equation was the farthest thing from my mind. They charge a good dollar for certain cheeses, so I assumed (again, shouldn't have) she knew what she was selling me.

                                                                                                  Thankfully, I'm loving all the cheese I bought. From now on, I'll do my homework before heading out to buy a cheese I'm not at all familiar with so I'm not counting entirely on the cheesemonger. I will say this, there was no snobbery in my cheese buying adventure. Cheese snobbery at the sales counter really turns me off.

                                                                                            3. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                              I did find Le Napoleon stronger than DGoat and Queso Sudado down right stinky.

                                                                                            4. re: HillJ

                                                                                              Still have that CC Red Hawk to enjoy next week.

                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                And I still have my Humboldt Fog, I hope it's edible!

                                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                  You haven't gobbled up that lovely fog yet? Such restraint!

                                                                                      2. re: HillJ

                                                                                        When the formed cheese is 'plopped' into either wine, or the macerated bits of the skins, seeds, and juice seen in Arome de Gene and Testun a la Barolo as examples it is far different than a washed rind.
                                                                                        A washed rind is just that, someone hand uses brine, vinegar, cider, beer, or whatever generally with a bit of salt to penetrate the surface quite a bit.

                                                                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                          Thanks for the clarification.

                                                                                          My plopped DG cheese was seated alongside all of the washed rind cheeses in that section of the cheese case. A big wheel of DG; it was purty too! And when I asked the cheesemonger to introduce me to a few washed rind cheeses, their recommendation included Drunken Goat. Is including DG in the category of w.r. typical of cheese shops?

                                                                                2. OULEOUT cheese.

                                                                                  This is a new raw cow milk washed rind from New York from Vulto Creamery.


                                                                                  Our first taste was with the rind and was too pungent. Without the rind it was still strong but not overly so. It tasted very French. Similar to Brie in texture and similar to Epoisses in flavor. Very good overall and I would buy it again.

                                                                                  1. We tend to pair our cheese tasting with red wines and last night we tasted our 5 washed was that rind cheeses with a bottle of Charbono. The cheeses do make the wine taste cheesy. Its almost like tasting the cheeses again as you drink the wine. The interesting thing I noticed is that this correlated inversely with the strength of the cheese. The milder cheeses like the Oka made the Charbono taste very cheesy while the pungent cheeses like Epoisses did not. Perhaps because taste and smell receptors are more saturated after the stronger cheeses?

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Ridge

                                                                                      Just for the hell of it, next time with your Berthault Epoisses drink a moelleux chenin blanc from the Loire, perhaps a vouvray.
                                                                                      l have found the stronger the cheese, the sweeter the wine that goes with it.

                                                                                    2. Stopped at my 2d favorite cheese shop today. They had some Douceur du Jura (Gift of Jura) a pasteurized cows milk washed-rind cheese from Jura, France (near the Swiss border). It was very soft, almost runny, and had an aroma one web reviewer called "mushroomy". Supposedly similar to raw milk Reblochon type cheeses you can't get in U.S.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: DonShirer

                                                                                        I had a raw-milk Reblochon-type American cheese last night that was quite good: Dancing Fern from Sequatchie Creamery in Tennessee (of all places). Not as pungent as some of the Epoisse or Vacherin style cheeses, but the paste was really luscious and creamy.

                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                          I mentioned in another thread that I tried Dancing Fern a few months ago. It was mild, as you describe, which I preferred to some of the stronger washed rind cheeses. I thought it good, not great.

                                                                                      2. This thread reminded me that I love Tilsit which I haven't had in a while so I bought some today - it's just as good as I remember it and I think a great introductory washed rind cheese for any newbies like me. I often buy it and it's not as flavorful as I'd like but somehow seems to get smellier and better as it sits in the fridge even when cut.

                                                                                        Morbier - I have been looking forward to trying this cheese for a while now, but I wasn't too impressed. However, upon further research apparently there are a lot of "fake" Morbier varieties out there. A few websites outlined some visual differences such as the cheese should have a few holes and not be completely smooth. Perhaps, it's just a very mild cheese but I didn't get much from it at all - very mild with little complexity.

                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                          Not aware of fake Morbier. In this country a throwaway product that although au lait cru is mild and boring. The French age it and is one of the three or four cheeses l bring home everytime. When aged it can be awesome. just brought home four kilos this week.

                                                                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                            I guess not fake more so not authentic "mild and boring." I'll be on the lookout for the good stuff if I can find it.

                                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                              Tried Twig Farm's washed rind and liked it very much. A cross between a Taleggio with a bit of Munster funkiness and extra salt. Served it with a Gruner Veltliner, some Finncrisp, and homemade pickled cherries. Good enough to try again.

                                                                                          2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                            I don't know if it's what you refer to as "fake Morbier", but the Montboissie(r) I've bought seems to be identical to Morbier. And yes, it's very mild.

                                                                                          3. Tonight I tasted some ARDRAHAN cheese:


                                                                                            This is an Irish washed rind. I have tried it before and I have found it can be quite variable. The one I tried tonight was excellent. It was on the firm side of semi-soft. A beautiful deep golden color. It was good with the rind but better without it. The flavors were grassy, barnyard, milky, slightly bitter (but not in a bad way). Without the rind the cheese is intensely zesty with a concentrated cheese flavor reminiscent of gouda. We loved it.

                                                                                            1. Tonight I tried some FIACCO DI CAPRA.


                                                                                              This is an Italian washed rind goat cheese. My husband thought it tasted like a buffalo cheese. It was really excellent. Creamy and buttery with a flavor that seems like wild oats. It had a certain assertive but not mouth drying sharpness that was very satisfying. Highly recommended.

                                                                                              1. I just nibbled on Vacherin Fribourgeios and love it! It was described to me as similar to Raclette, but it so much more than that and doesn't really taste similar to me at all other than the texture. The flavor was much richer and complex, nutty and buttery with a melt in your mouth sort of mouthfeel.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                  With luck it can be real mucky, and if you like VF try Abondance, similar product from French side of Jura mountains, but again neither of them are washed rind products but pressed products

                                                                                                2. A local (Indiana) washed-rind favorite of mine is Ameribella (formerly called Arabella). It's Tallegio-like, with a real pleasant saltiness. It definitely has a funk to it, but I don't find it overly strong. I'm fortunate to be able to go to the farm (it is a farmstead cheese) and buy it, but I understand they are now distributing to the coasts and some Midwestern cities.

                                                                                                  I also quite like Alsatian Munster--bought some at Whole Foods earlier this year and really enjoyed it. I'd never had this before, but decided to try some on a whim (how I often find cheeses--hmmm, never had this before, think I'll buy it).

                                                                                                  Glad for the Red Hawk aging tip--I didn't particularly care for this when I tried it, but it'll get another go (this time I'll know what to do!)

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: nofunlatte

                                                                                                    "try some on a whim" that describes my cheese life. You find a lot of great cheeses that way although I did that with Alsatian Munster from Whole Foods and wasn't much of a fan.

                                                                                                    1. re: nofunlatte

                                                                                                      Tried the Ameribella. WOW! As we have been learning cheeses can vary from batch to batch. The ameribella we just had was superb. One of the best cheeses I have ever tasted. From my notes: pungent, slightly sharp, slightly salty, full flavored, concentrated umami punch, French onion soup, bouillon. Got it at the cheese board in Berkeley CA. HIGHLY recommend the current batch of this cheese if you like strong washed rind cheeses.

                                                                                                    2. Tried Twig Farm's washed rind cheese: described as primarily goat with "sometimes" a bit of cow's milk added. Taleggio-like in texture, with a bit more salt and funk. We liked it very much.

                                                                                                      1. Epoisses: Chalancey brand rather than the more common Berthaut. Saw it at Costco and decided to try it. It sems milder than other versions I've tried, even though it's fully ripe (almost liquid in the center). Might be a god choice for someone a little intimidated by the reputation of stinky cheeses.

                                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                          Delucacheesemonger is stateside now and gave me wheels of Gaugry Epoisses and Reblochon two days ago. The genuine, unpasteurized versions. I'm savoring the experience ahead. Good friend, eh?

                                                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                            Lucky you! I want to hear about it once you taste them.

                                                                                                            1. re: Ridge

                                                                                                              Oh my. I cut a wedge from the Reblochon wheel and ate it with Water Wheel wafer crackers. Very soft washed rind, luscious molten paste, wonderful ripened aroma, not a hint of ammonia, delicious flavor. I didn't know cheese could taste this good. Raised the cheese bar for me.

                                                                                                            2. re: Veggo

                                                                                                              What difference do you perceive in the raw milk Gaugry Epoisses?

                                                                                                              Here's my photo from last year in Burgundy,

                                                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                                I'll cut into the Gaugry tomorrow on Turkey day and report back. The aroma even through the plastic wrap is wonderfully stinky. I can hardly wait!
                                                                                                                At this moment I'm roasting Italian chestnuts for my dressing, and by popular request I am doubling up on the oysters.
                                                                                                                I pierced all the chestnuts without the need for a single Band-Aid, a first for me. Otherwise, they explode like hand grenades.

                                                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                  To follow up: The Gaugry Epoisses has a more moist washed rind than the Berthaut and the other pasteurized one I have had. The Gaugry has a bit more of a tartness, less sweet and a tad bitter, but I say that in a complimentary way. Enormous flavor, much more than the Reblochon which was quite mild in comparison. It's probably the best cheese I have ever eaten. Perfectly ripened, no ammonia at all. Simply delicious. I feel lucky.

                                                                                                            3. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                              I'm going to bump up my assessment of this cheese a little. I took the plastic off but left it in the wooden box on the counter since Saturday and it's opened up nicely. Note that I often leave cheese out at room temperature for several days since I prefer not to eat cold cheese and I'm less likely to eat it if I have to plan ahead and take it out in advance to warm up. Note that my Bay Area kitchen is usually no more than 68 degrees.

                                                                                                            4. PONT L'EVêQUE, Normandy, France

                                                                                                              Last night I had a bottle of Devoto hard apple cider (Sonoma County) to take to a gathering. A cheese from Normandy seemed to be in order, and in honor of washed rind month, I picked Pont l'Evêque.

                                                                                                              This cow's milk cheese is washed with apple cider. Moderately funky with a soft and smooth paste, I'd describe the flavor as Brie on steroids. My friend added homemade apple butter as an accompaniment.

                                                                                                              $20/lb at Star Market in Salinas.

                                                                                                              1. L' AMI DU CHAMBERTIN (pasteurized milk version) by Gaugry in Bourgogne, France

                                                                                                                Late posting --- purchased November 2 at Oliver's Market, Montecito branch, in Santa Rosa, consumed November 8.

                                                                                                                The cheesemonger said that the store imports the cheese directly from Gaugry. It also carries Gaugry Soumantrain and Plaisir au Chablis, pasteurized of course, that I've never seen at a local store either. However, not the pasteurized Gaugry Epoisses, which I would have liked to try for comparison sake to the lait cru. She said that the cheese was ready to consume. The wooden box was completely sealed in plastic so I could not touch nor see the cheese round. L'Ami was not available for tasting, but they were sampling Plaisir au Chablis and it was quite fresh with a mostly chalky middle. Assuming that the cheeses in this newly arrived shipment were produced at the same time, I figured I would need to wait at least a week.

                                                                                                                L'Ami du Chambertin is proprietary to Gaugry. I first tried it in 1995, purchased during a business trip to Toronto. I walked past a cheese shop after finishing lunch, popped in and asked what raw milk cheeses it had for sale. I bought this and Oka. It's been one that I seek out when I'm in France, and it is my favorite of the Burgundian washed rind cheeses. Yes, I prefer it to Epoisses, even Gaugry's raw milk version, finding it more complex and deeper in flavor. With the taller height, a well-aged version holds longer at peak state.

                                                                                                                A week after purchase, I left the cheese out of the refrigerator for 24 hours before cutting into it. As a side note, I had asked the cheesemonger about aging it further and whether it might be benefit from leaving at room temperature or wine cellar temperature for a period of time. She said that it was too delicate a cheese to not be refrigerated and I should not do that though she did suggest taking off the plastic and exposing it to more air. Well, she was completely wrong about that as well as this cheese being mature. The cheese had the start of an oozy cream line but still had a firmish chalky center and was only starting to develop the signature aroma. While not as fully flavored as the raw milk version, and admittedly this one was not held to maturity, I still liked this cheese and probably would be a bigger fan if I were not familiar with the original. That said, I feel it is a more satisfying cheese than Berthaut pasteurized Epoisses. And for my $20, much better than this month's Red Hawk.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                                  I have one more wedge of the unpasteurized Gaugry Epoisses, and I agree it is significantly stronger tasting than the pasteurized Berthaut. I'm enjoying it, but it may be too strong for some. My Reblochon was much milder, but very good also.

                                                                                                                2. I'm enjoying a small wheel of Canadian washed rind called Sir Laurier by Du Village with apricots and apples right now.

                                                                                                                  Soft, spreadable, semi funk but mild. I'm enjoying it. $9. for 6 oz.

                                                                                                                  1. Yes, the month is over, but I keep discovering new washed-rind cheeses. This time it's 'Kinsmans Ridge' by Landaff Creamery in New Hampshire. The hunk I got is semi-soft, not runny (must still be young) but melts nicely.

                                                                                                                    You can read more about it at

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: DonShirer

                                                                                                                      Lets keep the discussion going! Please keep posting your washed rind experiences. I have several washed rinds in my fridge that I will taste on Sunday and will report back on.

                                                                                                                    2. I bought a delicate little washed rind cheese yesterday at Costco in San Francisco. It's labeled "gres d'alsace" but it is apparently this cheese: http://www.sfgate.com/food/article/Gr...

                                                                                                                      I wish the one I bought was a little riper, but it's a tasty little cheese: funky, but without any off flavors. I might buy another one and let it ripen a month in the fridge. Price is right at $6.59 and it's very pretty with its oval shape and decorative leaf.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                        It is very pretty but never develops any stink as it's cousin Muenster.

                                                                                                                      2. Just discovered another U.S. made reblochon type cheese:
                                                                                                                        Snow'd In, from Lazy Lady Farm in Vermont. Although noted for their goats, this is a raw milk cheese whose rind is washed in local beer. My chunk is obviously young and not stinky yet and on the mild side. We'll see what develops in a week or so. Only available January thru March.

                                                                                                                        1. And another domestic washed rind cheese that's new to me at least...
                                                                                                                          Hudson Red, a raw cow cheese from Twin Maple Farm in Ghent, N.Y. Slightly sweet and I got it before it turned stinky. I'm not a big fan of washed rind cheeses, but this one appealed to me.