Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ever heard of 'Stinking Bishop'?

Neither had I . . . until I learned that this week, 'Stinking Bishop' was voted Britain's smelliest cheese.

As Anna Pickard of the Guardian comments:

According to the Press Association, "the Stinking Bishop made by Charles Martell of Martell and Son in Gloucestershire blew the judges away and was described as smelling like a rugby club changing room."

Blowing away which judges? Well, apparently a set of professional judges, including a perfumier, who you would expect to know his odours, and a journalist, who presumably had a nose for a good story.

They were joined, it says, by a set of junior judges from Wells Cathedral School. Only the most sensitive noses were picked, it claims (or perhaps it was because they are eager choristers that put up their hands to volunteer first for everything, and didn't realise that this time it would involve subjecting themselves to an awful, dreadful stench. That'll teach 'em).

They all came together, smelled the cheese, and decided that though they "were all fantastically smelly", the Stinking Bishop was stinkiest. Proving, say the people who ran the competition that 'Britain equals anyone - and especially France - in the making of speciality cheeses'.

Does it really? Or does it simply mean that we can produce something that smells worse than a rugby club changing room and be PROUD about it?

There's more at the link.

Intrigued, I looked for more information, and found a fascinating description of how this delicacy (?) is made.

Stinking Bishop was first produced in 1972 by Charles Martin on Laurel Farm, in Dymock, Gloucestershire in the South West of England.

Orignally there were only 68 Gloucestershire heifers that produced the milk required to make the cheese, but the breed has had a revival in order to sustain the demand of Stinking Bishop. Sometimes the milk from Friesian cattle is combined and pasteurised with that of the Gloucestershire breed.

Mr Martin didn't set out to make cheese, it came about as a sideline as he was conserving and breeding the Gloucestershire cows. Now Stinking Bishop is a gourmet cheese stocked in specialist shops around the globe, and the Gloucestershire cattle breed is in it's hundreds. Both have thrived since the small beginning of the 70's.

Only 20 tonnes of Stinking Bishop is produced each year.

The Making, Smell and Taste

Stinking Bishop is a soft cheese and it's pungent aroma has been described as smelling of death, of damp laundry left in a washing machine for days, and unwashed socks. After those descriptions, it's a wonder that anyone dare temp to taste it at all. My personal description of the smell is that it's like a gym bag full of unwashed sweaty sports clothes. To say that this cheese is an acquired taste is somewhat of an understatement.

The smell is due to the cheese being washed during ripening with perry. Perry is an alcoholic drink much like cider, but instead of being made from apples, it's made from pears. In this instance the Stinking Bishop pear variety is used, and thus where the cheese gets it name from. The pear is said to get it's name from Mr Bishop who created the variety and who had an ugly temperament.

As well as being a cheese maker, Mr Martin, the maker of Stinking Bishop also grows his own pears.

The cheese is washed with the perry every four weeks while it matures.

When fully matured after 4 months, the cheese is smooth, soft and creamy. The distinctive taste is that of nuts and fruit, with a bitter aftertaste. You can taste the smell, if that makes any sense. It's a very strong flavour that keeps the tastebuds working long after the cheese is swallowed.

When eating Stinking Bishop, it is an absolute must that it has been out of the fridge for at least an hour. To get the full taste sensation of this cheese, it must be as gooey and stinky as possible. For some, the cleaning of teeth will be a must after the first try!

There's more at the link. Text in bold italic print is my emphasis.

Well, readers, after that, I'm sure you're just itching to rush out and buy some of this gastronomic tour de force.


Good - because neither am I! An overly close encounter with a ripe Limburger some years ago put me off stinky cheese for life!



Miz Minka said...

I wonder how the German "Harzer" compares to Stinking Bishop and Limburger. I've heard the smell of Harzer described as "nauseating," and as with Limburger, Brevibacterium linens is used for fermentation. My dad thinks Harzer smells like sweaty feet. :) I'm nearly anosmic, so I have no opinion. I like strong cheeses as long as they're not too bitingly bitter.

Anonymous said...

My tastes in cheese run beyond cheddar and mozzarella, but not that far.


Larry said...

I bet his would pair up well with a durian!! Read about that fruit if you don't know what it is. Yum!!

Stranger said...

They don't make genuine buried seven years in horse manure Limburger any more. The last Limburg I had was "weak," only five years old - but a suck broom peddler left a couple of sandwiches worth in a window box of a Port Lavaca tourist cabin.

A few days later he got a wire with just three words. "Where is it?"

He knew what they meant.