Some of the best and most tasty cheeses in the world stink. Some cheeses have smells that are just as strong as their tastes, like body odor or gym socks. But why does cheese smell bad? The aging process makes things moist, salty, and warm, which is a great place for bacteria to grow. Brevibacterium linens, also known as B. linens, are the bacteria that cause the smell. This kind of bacteria breaks down the protein on the outside of the cheese, called the rind, and gives off gases that smell bad.
Why Do Some Cheeses Stink?
The smell of stinky cheese comes from microorganisms, which are one of its most important parts.
Microorganisms are so small that you need a microscope to see them. However, sometimes they smell really bad.
Microorganisms are so tiny that they can only be seen using a microscope. Bacteria, yeasts, and molds are all types of microorganisms, but bacteria are the most important ones for making cheese.
When lactic acid bacteria are added to milk, the bacteria help get the milk ready for an enzyme called rennet. This enzyme helps the milk become more solid so that it can be made into cheese.
Even though the bacteria do a lot of work to help make cheese, there are some good things that come out of it. These bacteria eat the sugar, proteins, and fat in milk in order to get energy and grow.
When bacteria eat to get energy, they can also make a gas that smells bad. Molecules make up the gas. Some of these molecules, like ammonia or sulfur compounds, are what make stinky cheese smell bad.
Your brain helps you figure out what you smell when certain molecules touch receptors in your nose. Your brain might tell you to avoid stinky cheese, or it might make you want to try it.
10 Smelliest Cheeses in the World
Bossa is semi-soft, has been pasteurized, and can be spread. It tastes like meat and has hints of flowers. Bossa is one of the few cheeses made in the United States with a washed rind and made from sheep’s milk. It is made by Green Dirt Farm in Missouri. This stinky cheese has a strong smell because it is a washed-rind cheese, which often has a strong smell. Bossa is aged for five weeks, during which time the wheels are turned and washed in a brine solution several times. This creamy cheese goes well with sparkling and dessert wines, tomato chutney, hoppy beers, and fruit compotes.
Alemar Cheese Company in Mankato, Minnesota, makes Good Thunder, a square, semi-hard, smear-ripened, washed-rind cheese. It’s washed in an oatmeal brown ale from Surly Brewing Company for three weeks. Brevibacterium linens cultures give Good Thunder its unique smell and orange-colored rind. It was ripe and put in the fridge for a few more weeks before it was wrapped. As it ages, its smell gets stronger. This cheese is thick and creamy, and it goes well with brown ales and ciders.
Hooligan is a ripe, washed-rind cheese made from the milk of Brown Swiss and Jersey cows at Cato Corner Farm in Connecticut. About 60–75 days are spent aging this strong-smelling cheese. Hooligan tastes salty and nutty, like French Muenster. The smell of the cheese comes from giving it a brine bath twice a week, which makes smelly bacteria and yeast grow. Pair this cheese with a sweet white wine, a Zinfandel, or a Belgian-style ale. Hooligan is great for toasting because it melts well and has a center that is just a little bit firm.
While it ages, this cheese is washed in perry, which is a pear cider. The Stinking Bishop is made in the U.K. county of Gloucestershire. Its rind is so tasty that you have to take it off before you can eat the paste inside. People have said that the strong-smelling cheese smells like dead flowers and wet hay. This washed-rind cheese has been made by Charles Martell and Son since 1972. It goes well with a pear-flavored liqueur or a dessert cider. Gastro Obscure says that the cheese has an interesting history that involves a farmer with a bad attitude. It has also won an award for being the smelliest cheese in Britain.
Limburger cheese was first made in what is now Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, but in the past, it was made in the Duchy of Limburg. This semi-soft, smear-ripened cheese starts to smell bad after three months because it contains Brevibacterium linens, a bacterium that is used to ferment smear-ripened cheeses and is also found on human skin. This bacterium is the cause of smelly feet and bodies. Limburger has a strong smell, but the taste is mild and grassy with a hint of mushroom. The outside of the cheese is orange-brown, and the inside is a soft, straw-colored pate.
Little Qualicum Raclette
The skilled cheesemakers at Little Qualicum Cheeseworks on Vancouver Island in British Columbia make this cheese with a washed rind. Little Qualicum Raclette tastes rich and meaty because it is made from raw cow’s milk. This Raclette-family cheese is firm and soft, and the outside is sticky. The strong smell of Little Qualicum Raclette comes from the way it is aged. Some of the different tastes in this unpasteurized cheese are garlic, onion, and sweet paprika flake.
Mont St. Francis
This goat cheese with a washed rind was made by Capriole in Indiana. The milk for this semi-hard, soft cheese comes from the goats on the farm. As with most washed-rind cheeses, Mont St. Francis Goat Cheese has a strong smell that SFGATE.com describes as “aged beef and barnyard.” The inside of the cheese is buttery. When the cheese was first made in 1994, it was named after a nearby Franciscan retreat. Mont St. Francis goes well with sweet fig spreads, pickles, and meats that have been cured.
Off Kilter is made by the Mt. Townsend Creamery in Port Townsend, Washington. It is another cheese with a smelly, washed-rind that makes you gag. This semisoft cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and washed in Kilt Lifter scotch ale from the Pike Brewing Company. Cheese.com says that it is a French-style tomme and that the finish is malty and earthy. The inside of Off Kilter is thick and full of small holes, which are called “eyes.” At first, the cheese tastes sour, but as it ages, it starts to taste nutty.
This Swiss cheese comes from the Bulle, Fribourg, and Jura regions and has a buttery texture and a straw-colored inside. Only a small number of artisanal cheesemakers make this hard-to-find cheese. Vacherin Fribourgeois has the coveted Swiss AOP seal and comes in six different kinds that have been aged for different amounts of time: Classic, Extra, Rustic, Alpage, Mountain, and Organic. This washed-rind cheese has a nutty flavor and, naturally, a stinky smell. It can be used as a table cheese, in fondues, or just for cooking.
When you get older, one of the most interesting things you learn is that smelly foods can be the best in your field. If someone says that stinky cheeses are terrible, they are not very smart. It just so happens that the best, most expensive, and most delicious cheeses in the world have the worst smell you’ve ever smelled. But you have to get over it and try some of the best cheeses ever.