Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cheese: Chaumes

Chaumes (pronounced shohm) is a Trappist-style, semi-soft, soft-ripened cheese made with pasteurized cow's milk in Saint Antoine de Breuilh, Dordogne department, southwestern France. 
Its name means "stubble" in French. The orange rind appears 
as a result of coloring with beta carotene and salting it with brine. 
Then while aging, which it does for four weeks, the cheese is washed and brushed four our five times, presumably with bacteria which create the smell which has been described by Wikipedia as that of "old socks." Interestingly, when Judy went to taste it and I asked her what it smelled like, she said, "Smelly socks." She was even leery about eating it after that, but did. I found the smell very nasty, about as nasty as any I've smelled. 
To me it smelled like my pet ferret from years ago. When I was young and we went on vacation for a week, when we returned the smell of the ferret permeated the house. It was so bad that my father insisted the ferret had to go. That is what this cheese smells like and I asked myself, "Am I going to put that in my mouth?" Well, of course, and like other Trappist-style cheese the taste is much milder than the smell. The taste of Chaumes if very mild, but also deep and earthy. 
The texture in the mouth is kind of gummy or rubbery, kind of like biting into a bog, which matches the earthy taste. The rind can be eaten, which after the smell, I thought twice about, but the rind does offer a flavor not found in the flesh, as most rinds do. Chaumes has only been made since 1977 and it is one of the more popular cheeses in France, particularly with children, which seems hard to believe given the smell. As for me, it is not one of my favorite cheese and probably not one I would buy again. 

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