The “Bien Fleuri” Cheese

The “bien fleuri” is the aroma, the perfect time, color, texture and taste to eat a cheese.

The definitive, stinky French cheeses are amongst our favorite cheeses in the world. They are banned from being eaten on public transportation, as the aromas can take over an entire train-car and give the wrong impression to passengers. The reddish pink color of this cheese denotes a very stinky cheese, there are varying degrees of stinky however, this was the cats’ meow.

Many people wonder if these cheeses are okay to eat, or if they have passed their mark and should be thrown away. Basically cheese that smells has ample bacteria that will determine a cheese’s taste, texture and smell and most are healthy, if you are healthy.

Other factors that can make cheeses stinky are aging and washing and this effect has a very direct impact on the cheese. Then some cheeses are aged for many months, the aging often intensifies the cheese’s aroma. These smelly cheeses are mostly about their surface. The Brie cheese is a soft ripening cheese or referred to as a “bloomy cheese”. These cheese are coated with Penicillium Candidum, a fuzzy like bacteria that can change into various colors decorating the rind. These changes indicate to you a little about the state the cheese is actually in.

If you’ve purchased Brie, and its pure white, this denotes that the cheese has been “ultra-pasteurized”, a system of heating the curd near 135°C for a few seconds, a temperature required to kill the milk’s spores. Essentially all natural organisms in the milk, including those that are beneficial, are killed with this treatment.

But in some cases, a cheese is washed to give it a surface mold that helps from the outside in to age the cheese. The washed-rind cheeses are periodically cured in a solution of mold-bearing agents that help give the cheese a cheesy taste, a taste many dislike associating them with bad smells. The washing is made with wine, brandy, beer, and or herbs or spices, making their surfaces amenable to a class of Brevi bacterium, a reddish-orange “smear bacteria”. This imparts a pungent odor, a distinctive flavor, firm rind around the cheese.

A bloomy rind cheese can have “ammonia” smell. This some-what offensive aroma results when the cultures used to make the cheese consume and convert the proteins in the curd into ammonia. Refrigeration traps this aroma in the cheese not allowing it to evaporate away. Exposing the cheese to air will help dissipate this aroma.

If you’re wondering what makes this one of stinkiest cheeses in the world it’s because the rind of this cheese was brushed with sake while it ages.