Saint Albray – France
Saint Albray is a “stinky” cheese imported into Canada from France. I found this cheese at my local Loblaws in Mississauga, Ontario.
It is produced in the Viscounty of Béarn in France by Group Bongrain.
It was invented and brought to market in 1976. It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk. The cheese is formed into a flower arrangement. Each wedge forms a pedal and there is a hole in the middle. This arrangement does not have anything to do with taste, but it is a clever marketing idea, being unique and eye catching.
The cows that produce the milk for this cheese are “Blonde des Pyrenees”.
This is a mixed washed rind cheese. The orange color of the rind comes from a bacteria called brevibacterium linens often shortened to b-linens. The rind is washed at the beginning of the ripening period, then left to continue ripening and develop a stinky funky rind. The b-linens is the same bacterium found on human skin and responsible for “foot odor”. So guess what. This cheese has an odor similar to “dirty socks”. Not quite as bad as my kid’s hockey bag. But you get the idea. It stinks.
What does St. Albray cheese taste like? This is not a cheese for the cheese newbie. This cheese has a combination of barnyard and ammonia smell. It tastes milder, and better, than it smells. The paste (inside) is soft, mild with eyes (little air pockets). The consistency is interesting … somewhere between firm and runny. The rind is edible. If you find the flavor too strong then avoid the rind and enjoy the paste.
I have a friend who likes this cheese a lot. It’s one of his favorites. In fact he introduced me to it. The first time I tried Saint Albray I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. It smelled so bad. The taste was such a pleasant surprise. I found the ammonia off putting, then I came to terms with it. Then I liked it. It was a cheese tasting roller coaster ride. When the tasting was over I wiped the sweat from my brow and proclaimed – “Wow that was fun! Let’s go again”.
My advice is to avoid storing this cheese. It will really stink up a refrigerator. Just bring it home, let it come to room temperature and and then enjoy it. It pairs well with Fig spread.