Époisses on Fire


Époisses is my favorite cheese ever – one I discovered when we visited Beaune in Burgundy, France. It’s the local specialty cows’ milk, washed-rind cheese.

And, it’s stinky. So stinky, in fact, that it is supposedly banned from public transportation. Now I’m not sure if this still holds true, because I was told this factoid ages ago. But think about it. The French love their 500 or so cheeses. And they’re very proud of them, for good reason. So to ban a specific cheese from trains, planes, and automobiles, it must be pretty stinky.

I order Époisses at least once for the holidays, usually twice. It’s just that fabulous. If you can get past the stinky part, which is significant to those faint of nose, it’s the most fabulous soft cheese ever.

I’ve been ordering Époisses for years from Fromages.com, which is a wonderful website. I’ve never had any issues with them. You can’t even purchase a cheese if it’s not “in season.”

But I knew something was up when I got my box of French cheeses right before Thanksgiving. Usually I can smell the Époisses before I even open the box and get near the styrofoam insert. But I didn’t. It looked right; it always comes in a round carton like this one.


But even when I removed the lid, and then poked a hole in the plastic covering the cheese, I was really disappointed. No stink. Well, let’s call it mildly stinky.

Now, this is a cows’ milk cheese, and when they’re ripe, the smell will make you feel you’re standing in a meadow of cows that have all just pooped. Sorry to be graphic, but it’s true.

Typically I serve it with a chutney of sorts, depending on what variety I’ve just made for the upcoming holidays. So I had another idea with this cheese. I remember reading, somewhere, that you can douse your Époisses with cognac and light it on fire!

So that’s just what we did on Thanksgiving day when we I put out hors d’oeuvres before the big meal. Fortunately I had help for this task. My son-in-law is always willing to help me out, but with the benefit of playing with fire? He was definitely game.

The Époisses was at room temperature, of course, and I put it on a fire-proof plate. My SIL creatively poured the cognac over the Époisses, and then with his other hand, had the flame starter ready.


For all of you fellow bloggers/photographers who have tried to photograph flames, we all know it’s challenging. The room was too light, even though I attempted to adjust my camera. We could have moved into a darker room, I could have gotten out my tripod, etc., but being that it was Thanksgiving, and we I had already been working so hard, I just thought I’d try a few shots with my little point and shoot.


If you look closely you can see flames. I was actually worried that the cheese would get soggy in the cognac. But we persevered! We messed with flaming the cognac for a good 5 minutes.


By the end, the cheese looked like this. The flames had melted off the cheese rind, but not done much else. I also decided to pour off the extra cognac sitting on the plate, because I didn’t want to taste it that strongly.

And then we tried it. And, were not that impressed. The heat from the flames, whatever little flames they were, also hadn’t done much to soften the inside of the Époisses as well, so I had to deem it unripened. Époisses is usually molten when you break into it, much like a baked brie. A little disappointed in Fromages.com for the first time.

The Époisses still had fabulous flavor, although we don’t think the cognac had much of an effect flavor-wise. Let’s just say we still ate it. But I won’t do the cognac thing again.