What this is: A look at the funky side of cheese.
Who is it for: This cheese type sings a siren song to the cheese crowd, who love the meaty side of cheese and aren’t afraid of a little funk on their cheese plate.
When you’re looking for more development in your relationship with cheese, and you feel like you’re ready for more and other cheeses just aren’t providing, well, that’s when it’s time to check out our creamy&funky friends.
The creamy&funky Cheese Type
If you imagine a wheel that starts out like a Brie or Camembert that then gets washed with brine or potent potables, you have yourself a creamy&funky cheese. The rind is funky or stinky and the body of the cheese (paste) can range from spreadable to dippable, with a savory umami flavor.
Cheeses in this category include:
- Vacherin Mont d’Or
Most of the pungent aroma for these cheese types is in the rind, thanks to the special bacteria (B. linens) that works to ripen this cheese from its regular washing (who knew that regular washing would make you stinkier? We did!) But, if you find the smell of a creamy&funky cheese to be too much for you, then ditch the rind—you do you! But, the rind definitely is meant to be eaten, so if you embrace the funk, go all the way.
More about the bath: There are other cheeses that also get washed, but they are firmer cheeses and fall into the smooth&melty category. They, too, are delicious and you will find they are a little more meaty than their unwashed peers.
Cheese Etiquette: If you don't want to eat the rind, be a dear and still slice your share of the rind off for your serving, put it on your plate and then cut away the rind. No one likes the look of a Taleggio on a platter that just has the sad, dug-out rind remaining. It's a little like putting your chicken wings back on the serving platter—in a word: gauche.
Like most cheese categories, you will discover cheese from all four milk types here. In general, you can use this guide to help you find a milk type you like (or ask your favorite monger for a taste!)
- Sheep's milk is Saltier
- Cow's milk is Creamier
- Goat's milk is Tangier
- Buffalo milk is Fattier/Creamier
This category has some fun cheeses to try and we suggest a stop at a real cheese store to try them and fall in love with your favorite. You will find the paste of the cheese to fall somewhere between supple and squishy, to down right spoonable. The Brevibacterium linens, aka B. linens are the magical bacteria nurtured in the wet rinds, and are what give creamy&funky cheeses their telltale orange hue.
Favorite Flavor Profiles
The creamy&funky category pairs very well with Sour, Salty, Spicy, and Umami flavor profiles—in a word, these are strong cheeses that don’t shy away from powerful flavor profiles. Now is the time to break out your pickles! Your dense German breads! And of course, all of the mustards.
We like to think of this category as the meat of the cheese world. It feels and tastes substantial and holds up to being used in fancy mac and cheese, as well as Tartiflette, a baked potato dish. If you have some hanging around at your next barbeque, think about using this as the cheese for your burger and your friends will appreciate your experimentation as it melts into the hot grill marks on your patties.
Favorite Wine Profiles
We suggest the following types of wine:
- Sparkling (Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, Lambrusco)
- Sweet White (Riesling, Gewürtztraminer, Muscato, Chenin Blanc)
- Dry White (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Grüner Veltliner, Albariño)
- Light Red (Pinot Noir, Gamay)
- Bold Red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Bordeaux, Tempranillo)
- Dessert (Port, Sauternes, Ice Wine, Sherry)
Sparkling wines are especially nice for this cheese if you’ve chosen it to be the star of a Hero Cheese Board. The little bubbles will clear off the creaminess of the cheese and prepare you for another bite, and so on.
Interestingly here, even though creamy&funky cheeses don’t pair as well with the Sweet flavor profile, sweet and dessert wines can actually cut through the funk nicely. Try pairing some port with a savory jam next to a creamy&funky cheese and a slice of toasted nutty quickbread for an amazing dessert that no one will expect but everyone will want again.
How to Shop for creamy&funky Cheese
Shopping for these cheeses is relatively easy. If you can touch the cheeses (through plastic, or paper, of course!), you’re looking for a texture that has some give. If you’re working with a monger, you can ask them “how ripe it is” and let them elaborate. You also want to make sure it has a healthy looking rind, which means it orange-y and wet—if the rind looks brown, dry, and/or cracked, leave it be and find a healthier cheese.
On a Cheese Plate
If you're buying a big wedge of creamy&funky cheese, you can just place it as is on the cheese plate. If you have a small format cheese that isn't runny, you can either cut it into wedges and lay them out in a cool pattern, or just show your cheese-eating guests how to "cut the cheese" (pun intended) by cutting the wheel in half, then cut one quarter, and then cut one small slice out of that quarter.
This type of cheese can definitely be the hero of a plate, making it unnecessary to add any other cheeses. You'll want to include a cheese knife or a spreader depending on your presentation and the ripeness of your cheese.
Many cheese in this category are too soft to cut, some so much that they actually come in their own little wooden round cheese box that you can serve from (we’re looking at you, Époisses!) if it comes in one of the wooden boxes you can just set a spreader knife in the cheese so your guests know to dig in.
Raid the kitchen. Since this cheese pairs best with items like pickles, and mustard which you likely have in your kitchen, bring home some cheese and try to find at least three different pairing combinations (one can be a burger!) and take notes on what your favorite way to eat it is. Be brave and experiment—this cheese type rewards it.
Click the icons to download a pdf of this lesson and our two handy guides: How Cheese is Made and Cheese and Pairing Types.