Many of the most interesting cheeses are made from raw milk. But unless it's aged more than 60 days raw milk cheese cannot be imported into the US. The result is Americans can only eat many fine cheeses by being travellers or smugglers.

One of my favourite cheeses, Epoisses, is in a grey zone. You won't find raw milk Epoisses in the US: the cheese is only aged 4-6 weeks. And only 10% of Epoisses is made from lait cru. Is it the best?

One of the finest Epoisses producers, Fromagerie Berthaut, no longer uses raw milk. Berthaut is credited with rescuing Epoisses production from extinction in the 1950s. According to The Art of Eating Berthaut started heating the milk in 1999 after pressure when a nearby unscrupulous cheese maker had a listeria outbreak.

Epoisses can be difficult, strong smelling and tasting. I've had a hugely rewarding Epoisses at La Côte Saint-Jacques and I've had Epoisses that was mild and dull. I'm hoping the difference is aging because if it's the milk, you can't get the good stuff in the US. I have a Berthaut Epoisses (from Say Cheese) relaxing in my cellar now.

  2003-11-09 19:03 Z