Epoisses - the King of Cheeses
If you love cheese... Epoisses is for you
I really enjoy cheese, don't you?
I've always believed that a meal is incomplete without it. And I thought I knew quite a lot about various cheeses too. But I was wrong. I hadn't heard of the fabulous Epoisses until a read a rather wonderful book called Edward Trencom's Nose which refers to Epoisses as 'the king of cheeses'.
To this day I don't know how to pronounce Epoisses - 'ep-wah'? -'ep-wasses?' But that really doesn't matter because as soon as I tried this delicious food I was in love. Totally.
It's not a cheap purchase but even in this day and age, it's a luxury you deserve if you love good food. And it's not a mere food, it's history. Napoleon was a fan of this cheese and it was first made in the sixteenth century by Cistercian monks in the Burgundy area of France. What's more, it's washed in the locally-made brandy. Mmm. Wow. This is special.
This is how we like to eat Epoisses - with some lovely, fresh crusty bread and some fruit. (Preferably sitting outside in the sun).
In the photograph above, we were having sliced apples but any fruit is delicious with this. We work from home and get up early in the morning. So it's lovely to take a break at lunchtime and sit for half an hour enjoying our beautiful view and some delicious food and a glass of wine; it's the highlight of our day. We enjoy French treats a lot and they can be more expensive in America but the taste certainly makes up for any perceived 'extravagance'.
As we are vegetarian and don't eat meat, good cheese is our filet mignon!
The monks made this in the area for over two hundred years. Then they left the area but gave the recipe for their magnificent product to the local farmers. Production continued but it was only well-known locally and in other nearby areas of France.
It was very much a regional specialty. During and after the Second World War though, production had almost ceased - the rural French farmers had weightier matters on their minds. But in 1956, local farmers Robert and Simone Berthaut felt strongly that the tradition shouldn't die out and commenced production. Now, Epoisses is available all over the world. And I make the most of it, even here in America.
In addition to food, I love wine, especially French wines. I'm not knowledgeable enough about wine to recommend an expert pairing but I do feel that a cheese should be paired with a wine that is produced in the same area. So I'd recommend a Burgundy. I like red wine but people who know a lot more about wine than I do recommend a white Burgundy.
Epoisses is often described as a stinky version but I don't find that's the case. Whatever the aroma may be, it's truly delightful to eat.
The book by Giles Milton that led to my discovery of this wonderful treat.
I laughed out loud several times when I read this book. I'm looking forward to buying a new copy because I lent mine to the person who runs my local specialist food shop and never got it back!
This book taught me so much about my favorite food and about history but it is so much more than that. It's a thriller, an adventure and a comedy at the same time!
If you love dairy produce as much as we do, then you've probably got a couple of these books in your library. We found that we had great fun experimenting with different combinations and books are a great way to discover exciting pairings. It's funny that I've been eating yummy cheeses all my life but it's only in the last couple of years that I've started to read about it and discover unknown cheeses and how wonderfully they pair with various wines.
Buy Epoisses online
My local specialist food shop owner sends out email bulletins when they manage to get a stock of Epoisses. It can be very difficult to buy locally. Thank goodness, it's available online. This is a rich and tasty food and a little goes a long way but often, it's less expensive to buy online as it is locally. And what a treat it is when it's delivered to the door.
Once I discovered food in a gourmet way, I realized that it wasn't just the wine accompaniment that's important, crackers, chutneys and other side dishes must be of a quality to match the main ingredient. We especially like to experiment with different types of crackers and it's always a good idea to see if there are crackers available that are made in the same region as your food - this makes them natural partners.
Luckily, there's a great range available online and many are imports and truly gourmet treats. When you enjoy cheese with different ingredients, it's fascinating to experiment. For example, our local specialist food store owner recommended that we eat cheese with a dab of honey that's made in the same region. That's something I would have never thought of. Enjoying and learning about this delicious treat is a gourmet adventure.
© 2013 Jackie Jackson