A Hamburger Today

Funkadelic Cheeses: The Source of the Smell

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[Photograph: @sstiavetti]

A good, upstanding wheel of washed-rind can smell strongly enough to cause most scent-sensitive folks to run for the hills. Their reasoning makes sense: what sane, self-preservation savvy person would eat something that stinks so gosh-darn bad? There's a good reason, actually. Because stinky cheeses are freaking delicious.

Why do some cheeses smell so strongly? Washed-rind cheeses, for their part, have been bathed any number of things, including water, salt, wine, spices, and various liquors. The washing helps the cheese retain moisture and develop their characteristic flavors. The outside of the cheese then builds a cultivation of brevibacterium linens, otherwise known as b. linens. These cultures are what cause the strong smell.

When buying washed-rind cheeses, look for rinds that are uniformly colored—often pink, orange, or light beige. The smell should be pungent, obviously. Some ammoniated cheeses are perfectly fine to eat, but beware of any excessively ammoniated funk, as this may mean the cheese has spoiled. (When in doubt, ask your cheesemonger.) With the exception of a few cheeses, the skin should be smooth, not sticky, slimy, tacky, dry, or cracked.

Here are a handful of lovely, stinky cheeses you should try. I promise, there's gold at the end of the rainbow:

About the author: Stephanie Stiavetti is a writer and cookbook author in San Francisco. Stephanie's cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, celebrates America's favorite dish by recreating it with small production, specialty cheeses. Her food blog, The Culinary Life, is a repository for all things comfort food related, from savory dinners to transcendental desserts.

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