Skagit Food Co-op blog:

the Cheese Whisperer

The Cheese Whisperer: Sniffing the Feet of Angels


Classic stinky European cheeses

Cheese comes in all sorts of flavors, not least of which is the “stinky” and pungent variety. These are the sorts of curds you hold to your nose and smell through the packaging. Fans of strong and complex tastes will find a few fun stinky cheeses at the Co-op, including: Morbier, Raclette and Taleggio.

The French are connoisseurs of cheese, especially stinky ones. I recently heard a famous expression used to describe stinky French cheese as “sniffing the feet of angels.” Perhaps you have caught a whiff or a nibble of a stinky cheese and associated it with feet or other earthy smells? Likely what you have experienced is Brevibacterium linens, a particular culture of bacterium responsible for many of the stinky cheese aromas and tastes. B. linens thrives in a warm and humid environment and lives mainly on the rind or surface of a cheese. The rind gradually takes on a pinkish-orange salmon color as the bacteria releases flavor compounds not often found in typical American foods. Some describe the flavors as grassy, earthy or mushroom-like.

Here are a few examples, available in the Co-op’s Cheese Island:

Morbier – this classic French semi-soft cheese made from raw cow milk. It has a pale salmon rind with a streak of vegetable ash in the center of the cheese. Traditionally the ash is added to separate the morning and evening milk used to make the cheese. Morbier has a strong aroma with a creamy and slightly bitter aftertaste. Serve Morbier as an appetizer with rustic crunchy bread and chutney or jam to enhance its earthy flavors.

Raclette – similar to Morbier, but without the vegetable ash, this classic strong flavored cheese is also made from raw cow milk. In France a wedge of Raclette cheese is commonly served melted on bread or potatoes. It is also a classic choice for using in Swiss fondue. Try enjoying it by placing cubes of Raclette on top of steamed or roasted vegetables, such as beans, asparagus, potatoes or mushrooms.

Taleggio – perhaps one of the world’s oldest soft cheeses, this Italian delight is made from pasteurized cow milk with a bright orange “washed” rind. You’ll know Taleggio by its distinctive triangle shape, cut from a square cheese mold. It is lovingly described as “feet cheese” and has an incredibly soft, creamy and spreadable texture. This cheese has a slightly fruity “stinky” flavor. Serve it on a bitter greens salad, such as arugula or radichio or add to a bruschetta topping, alongside tomatoes, olives and fresh basil.

By: Claire

ClaireClaire Harlock Garber loves to eat and drink and write about it. She has worked in the food industry for nearly a decade and was on staff at the Skagit Valley Co-op from 2010-2018, writing the regular columns Skagit Brew Corner, The Cheese Whisperer, The Bounty of Bulk, and What's Dippin' in the Well for the Co-op's blog, as well as articles for the Natural Enquirer newsletter.