Reprinted from the October issue of Ink Magazine

This article is a continuation of an effort to help answer the question, what cheeses should I choose for a tray selection? Once you’ve determined the amount of cheese you need based on the number of guests, other foods being served, time of day, beverage of choice, then determine the number of cheeses you want to serve. As a general rule anywhere between two to four ounces per guest will work. For example, a long party serving wine will require more cheese than an after dinner coffee affair. Then just choose a cheese from each family and your dilemma is solved. In the INK 2019 August issue, we covered the Blue Cheese family. Our current choice is the washed rind family.

The washed rind family is very similar in many ways to the soft-ripening family. Both of these families are very young, about 30 days old when shipped.  They get softer and run when ripe, and should be consumed within a few weeks of delivery. A few of the aged washed rind cheeses will be discussed at the end of the following list. The major difference compared to the white mold soft ripening collection is the washed rind’s darker brownish orange outer covering. This is derived from a b-linen bacteria washed on the outside of the cheese. The cheese is then ripened in a refrigerator with a higher moisture content than most cheeses to help the b-linens growth. This causes the cheese to become a little sticky with a more pungent aroma and taste. As the cheese ages it will become even stickier and more pungent.

There are many members in this family. Perhaps one of the best-known examples is German Limburger. This offering gets a bad rap because of its reputation as a deadly knockout smelling strong cheese. In reality, if eaten at the proper time, I consider this cheese to be one of the milder washed rind cheeses and it is very enjoyable.

At first one can presume by the smell and wet outer rind of this family that the cheese is overripe and should be discarded. This is not true.

The following selection is a grouping of some of the more popular members in the family. I really like them because they add a totally different flavor and color to your cheese selection. I’ve tried to rate them into four categories, mild, medium, strong and aged, but because of the way they ripen and the aging process each cheese can often fit into any of the groups. So, let’s assume the following list works if all cheeses were tasted in their perfect condition.

Mild Washed Rind

Limburger (Germany)

This is a small 6-7oz cheese from Germany that was originally created by the Belgium Trappist monks in the 19th Century. Its known for its strong pungent smell. The cheese is paired nicely with thin sliced raw onions on a dark bread or baguette. Please notice that in spite of its reputation I still place it in the mild grouping.

Diva (Connecticut, United States)

This is a new favorite of mine created by Arethusa Farms in Litchfield Connecticut. The cheese weighs about seven to eight ounces, square in shape and about an inch thick.  Diva has a sweet tangy nutty flavor with a slight pungent aroma. Pairs well with semi-dry red wines and Farmhouse ales.

 Pont’Leveque (France)

This is one of the oldest French cheeses made in Normandy which dates back to the twelfth century. I’ve seen this in both a small seven to eight-ounce square size similar to Diva but it is also found in a large three-pound form. Its rind tends to be a little drier than other washed rinds but this too can vary with age.

Epoisse (France)

Made in the Burgundy region in France this is one of the best known and popular cheeses on any tray. In wine talk it’s the Chateau Lafite of cheese. It’s a small eight-ounce wheel about an inch thick and it can also be found in a half size half-moon offering. The cheese is creamier than most when ripe and at room temperature it will run like fondue.

Taleggio (Italy)

This is a very creamy semi-soft cheese with an edible rind made in the Lombardy region of Italy. It dates back to Roman Times. The cheese comes in a square about six pounds. It is only aged for forty days and comes to market very young. The cheese ripens fairly fast so week to week its strength will alter. The cheese is often used in cooking and recommended by many chefs.

 Medium Washed Rind

 Oma (Vermont USA)

Produced by the Von Trappe family in Vermont this is a nice addition to the washed rind family. It comes in a two-pound wheel so it is usually cut to order. It’s one of the few young raw milk versions available because it is made in the USA. All imported cheeses under sixty days old need to be made from pasteurized milk to enter the country. Its been said that you will sing a little better after eating some Oma.

 Fromage des Chaumes (France)

Chaumes is a very popular cheese in our store. It comes in a five-pound wheel about twelve inches in diameter and a full inch thick. It’s a little more orange in color as compared to the more brownish hews of other washed rinds. This pasteurized cow’s milk cheese enters our county just over four weeks old.

 Munster (France)

This cheese is not to be confused with milder domestic muenster, they have nothing in common. This pasteurized cow’s milk cheese dates back to the Middle Ages. They come in small rounds as little as three or four ounces. The Munster cheeses shipped to the USA are also made from pasteurized milk.

Strong (Nose Plug Needed) Washed Rind (Wash hands twice after handling)

 Stinking Bishop (English)

What can I say about this cheese? The name says it all. They actually have a Stinking Bishop Fan Club in England. The current cheese originated in 1972. It gets its name from the cheese making process which includes a bath in a perry made from Stinking Bishop Pears. The taste is rather nice but getting past the aroma is a challenge.

 Liederkrantz (United States)

Leiderkranze is a domestic version of German Limburger that originated in 1891. It used to be sold in little boxes. The company was sold several times, finally production was halted in 1985. However, in 2010, the DCI Cheese Company of Wisconsin started production again and it is now available only wrapped in foil.. It’s still stronger than Limburger.

 Aged Examples

 Gruyere (Swiss)

This large eighty-pound wheel is best known for making Fondues, Quiche, French onion soup and often found on many a cheese tray. Its washed rind finish helps create the great taste this cheese is known for. You will see more of this sticky rind the older the cheese is. Ages can vary from six months to over eighteen months.

Appenzeller (Swiss)

One of my favorite cheeses. Appenzeller is given a bath in white wine and a recipe of herbs and spices when it is first made. It also owes its great flavor to a little washed rind on its exterior finish. This cheese is over 750 years old.

All I can say is don’t be afraid of this family. The cheeses have a wonderful flavor that adds to any cheese tray. Be sure to know what condition your cheese is in and as I always say, try before you buy. Don’t take the salesperson’s word for it or assume the best buy date is a true indication of the condition or its taste. Regardless how I rank them, just a little more time can jump a cheese into the next strength category.

Washed Rind Family
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