One of the things that drove me to start this blog and indeed get into cheese in the first place is the incredible variety, creativity, and obscure traditions that exist within the world of finely aged milk boogers. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between things that genuinely taste great and those that people have just convinced themselves they like because they are so strange (jalapeño Chocolate Grasshoppers come to mind…)
In that vein, here’s a rundown of some of the most bizarre cheese-related bits I’ve come across over the last week or so:
This one is thanks to Anna over at worldaccordingtocheese.com. Casu Marzu, or what the Italians call formaggio marcio (“rotten cheese”) is for those people who think mold is for pussies. To say that this cheese is fermented would be a horrifying understatement. Casu Marzu will go you one better, into a state of full-on decomposition. What makes the difference? For the sake of decency, I’m putting it after the jump.
SURPRISE: IT’S LIVE GODDAMN MAGGOTS!
That’s right. Casu Marzu starts out as a Sheep’s Milk Pecorino, with one little difference: the crust is punctured at the beginning of the aging process. This allows the Italian Cheese Fly to make its way inside and lay a couple thousand eggs in the souring curd. When those eggs hatch, the larvae crawl out and begin to devour the rotting cheese and, uhh, what’s the scientific word for it? Oh yeah, they poop it back out in what is purported to be the most exquisite butt-cheese.
In a truly unsurprising turn of events, Casu Marzu was outlawed due to health concerns, but has since been classified a “traditional food” exempting it from certain EU regulations. So there’s the good news – at least you don’t have to buy your maggot-poop-cheese on the black market anymore.
Historically, Morbier was made with a layer of ash in the middle because, at the end of the day, sometimes a cheesemaker would have leftover curd that wouldn’t add up to a full batch. Instead of making an undersized batch or letting good curd go to waste, you could coat the curd in ash, and top it off the next day.
Now normal people are perhaps mildly turned off by the idea of a layer of ash running through their otherwise smooth and creamy delight, but the vegetable ash they use is totally edible and, after being aged inside a wheel of Comté, quite tasty. So that’s not all that weird, in a fried-egg-on-a-slice-of-leftover-pizza sort of way. What really gave this cheese the WTF factor was seeing this comment in a reddit discussion:
I don’t even really know how to follow this up. I did some googling and couldn’t find any evidence of people actually doing this, but damn, is that some committed cheesemongering.