Époisses de Bourgogne
|Country of origin||France|
|Region, town||Côte-d'Or, Époisses|
|Source of milk||Cows|
|Texture||Soft, washed rind|
|Aging time||at least 6 weeks|
|Certification||French AOC 1991|
Commonly referred to as Époisses, it is a pungent unpasteurised cows-milk cheese. Smear-ripened (washed in marc de Bourgogne, the local pomace brandy), it is circular at around either 10 cm (3.9 in) or 18 cm (7.1 in) in diameter, with a distinctive soft red-orange colour. It is sold in a circular wooden box, and is often served with Trappist beer or even Sauternes rather than a red wine.
At the start of the sixteenth century, the village was home to a Cistercian community at L'Abbaye de Citeaux that, according to oral legend, began production of the cheese. Two hundred years later, when the community left, they left local farmers the recipe, which developed over the next century. Although popular at the start of the 20th century, with over 300 farms manufacturing the cheese, production had all but died out by the end of the Second World War. This resulted from the loss of a significant portion of the male population, leaving the women to work the fields, which in turn led to the neglect of the local dairy businesses and cheese-making.
In 1956, a pair of small farmers, Robert and Simone Berthaut, decided to re-launch the production of Époisses by mobilizing the traditional skills of those who still knew how to make the cheese. Berthaut Époisses increasingly gained favor among its devotees and became a spectacular success. The business is now carried on by their son, Jean Berthaut. Fromagerie Berthaut is currently responsible for the manufacture of all fermier Époisses, although several artisanal fromageries now manufacture the cheese.
At the first stage of manufacture, the whole milk is heated to around 30 °C (86 °F) with the coagulation lasting for at least 16 hours. The fragile curds are drained in moulds, and the whey then allowed to run off. Around 48 hours later the cheese is removed, salted, and placed on racks to dry; once dry, it is moved to cellars to mature.
Each cheese is rinsed up to three times per week in a mixture of water and marc, and brushed by hand to spread the bacteria evenly over the surface. The yeast and fermenting agents produce the distinctive orange-red exterior, as it develops over a period of around six weeks.
- The milk's coagulation must be performed by lactic acid and continue for 16 hours.
- The curd must be cut roughly as opposed to being broken.
- After drainage, only dry salt may be used.
Books about or featuring Époisses
- The Cheese Plate, by Max McCalman, David Gibbons.
- Cheese & Wine: A Guide to Selecting, Pairing, and Enjoying, Janet Fletcher.
- A Sport and a Pastime, James Salter.
- The Devil's Picnic, Taras Grescoe.
- Histoire du fromage d'Epoisses, Georges Risoud, Editions de l'Armançon, 2000.
- Edward Trencom's Nose, by Giles Milton.
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