Maggot Cheese and Others You'll Only Find in Europe

The world of cheese is a vast, scary place for people with delicate palettes or sensitive noses. If you can get past the blocks of sterile looking cheddars, mild mozzarella and tame Swiss in the grocery store, there’s so much more to explore. 

For the ultimate cheese adventure, you’ve got to travel to Europe where you’ll be able to sample cheeses that are hard-to-find…or even illegal back home. If you are looking for the ultimate European cheese list that isn’t for the faint of heart, these cheeses range from simply smelly and unusual to downright repulsive:  

Callu de cabreddu, traditional cheese of Sardinia [Italy]

Cheese | Callu de cabreddu cheese
Origin | Sardinia
Start things off weird in Sardinia with a bite of callu de cabreddu fried in lard and served on a cracker. This unusual cheese is encased and fermented inside the stomach of a baby goat. Once the stomach is removed and washed out, raw goat’s milk is poured into the stomach and allowed to cure until the stomach has hardened. The unsalted cheese is served with the stomach lining as a rind and is yellowish, spicy and granular like cottage cheese. 

Époisses de Bourgogne cheese [France]

Cheese | Epoisses
Origin | France
Napoleon’s favorite cheese is smelly. It’s made from raw milk that has less than 60 days to age, so it isn’t legal to import or sell in the U.S. Each of the young, runny wheels of cheese is washed in rainwater and Marc de Bourgogne – the local brandy. As it ages, a red mold forms on the outside. Once you’ve punched through the moldy crust, you’ll need to eat epoisses with a spoon or some crusty French bread.     

Casu marzu, sheep milk cheese containing live insect larvae [Sardinia, Italy]

Cheese | Casu marzu
Origin | Sardinia
Casu marzu routinely makes “most disgusting food in the world” lists. This round wheel of pecorino cheese has a little something “extra” that alters its flavor and its appearance forever…live maggots. The interior of the cheese writhes when you cut it open. If the maggots aren’t jumping it’s considered unsafe to eat. The cheese is very questionably legal in the E.U. after a years’ long fight to protect heritage foods from disappearing. Traditionally, it was formed by accident when maggots got into the wheels of pecorino and digested it into brainy lumps. Someone decided to try it and the rest is history. This specialty cheese is highly sought after as a traditional Sardinian food, but it’s usually impossible to find without knowing someone. 

Mimolette, traditional French cheese [St.-Jean-de-Luz, Aquitaine, France]

Cheese | Mimolette
Origin | France
Mimolette is a bright, beautiful orange color. It doesn’t smell and it tastes sweet and delicious. It is, however, made with the help of cheese mites and therein lies the controversy. The cheese mites cover the rind of aging mimolette and as they nibble away, they transform the cheese to its famous orange color. Once the cheese is ready to be eaten, the cheese maker typically blasts the mites off with a high-pressure burst of air. In France, a few mites aren’t considered a problem, but the it’s been said that the FDA routinely holds up shipments of Mimolette if it cannot be proven the mites are fewer than six per square inch – an impossible goal for the traditional cheese.

Cheese | Vieux Lille
Origin | France
The French nicknamed this cheese puant de Lille – which is sometimes translated as old stinker. Whether or not you agree with the translation, there’s no mistaking this cheese’s putrid odor. It’s rumored to be banned from public transit in Lille because of its offensive stink. The cheese is brined regularly for three months to keep a rind from forming and then wrapped in multiple layers to try to cut down on the smell. Unwrap it and then eat it quickly before it clears out your dinner party. Strong, dark beer is the usual chaser. 

Milbenkase, mite cheese [Wuchwitz, Germany]

Cheese | Milbenkase
Origin | Germany
Milbenkase is another mite-ridden cheese. This time from Germany instead of Northern France. Today traditional Milbenkase is produced exclusively in the village of Wurchwitz where tourists can try samples of the cheese from the interior of a mite statue in the town square. Unlike Mimolette, Milbenkase is flavored with caraway seeds. Mites live on the rind of the cheese allowing it to turn yellow, orange and then black. When it’s eaten, milbenkase is zesty and strong flavored. Head to Wuchwitz to try a slice because the cheese exists in a legal grey area and isn’t usually available elsewhere. 

Cheese | Pule
Origin | Serbia
Pule cheese makes the list because it is the most expensive cheese in the world. Get a pound of this cheese and it will cost you more than $600. Pule is so expensive because it has to be made from the milk of endangered Balkan donkeys. Each donkey needs to be hand milked three times per day. You can’t find pule unless you special order it from the Zasavica Donkey Reserve, or know someone who has placed an order. Your cheese will be white, crumbly and smoky in flavor.

Limburger cheese and bread [Germany]

John Sullivan | Public Domain
Cheese | Limburger
Origin | Germany
Limburger is deeply smelly. It’s made from the same bacteria that cause foot odor, so do not expect a delicious food-like scent when you unwrap the cheese. The cheese’s orange rind protects its soft interior. The longer the cheese ages, the runnier it becomes. After three months, it can be served alongside rye bread, onions and beer. Hold your nose and you’ll find this stinky cheese tastes quite mild. 

Pont l’Eveque Cheese [France]

Cheese | Pont l’Eveque
Origin | France
Pont l’Eveque, an ancient cheese dating from the Norman era, is still one of the most popular cheeses in France. Don’t let its fearsome smell put you off – let this cheese soften and come to room temperature and then enjoy it with bread or crackers as you would Brie or Camembert. It’s soft, creamy and very easy to eat.

Cheese | Vieux Boulogne
Origin | France
Vieux Boulogne has won multiple prizes for being the world’s strongest-smelling cheese. The cheese smells unabashedly of manure and has developed its unique pong during multiple washings in strong beers. Despite its off-putting odor, Vieux Boulogne is a young, mild cheese and is eaten without the rind. Bread and beer are favorite companions.  

Stinking Bishop Cheese [England]

Cheese | Stinking Bishop
Origin | England
Stinking Bishop is actually named after the stinking bishop pear whose fermented juices are used to wash the cheese. That being said, it still smells like rotting vegetation. The cheese is started with vegetarian rennet and after two months of washing and aging, it is ready to be eaten.  Once you’ve opened a wheel, remove the outer rind and enjoy the cheese with pear slices and nutty breads.

Valdeon blue cheese made of sheep and goats milk [Spain]

Cheese | Valdeon
Origin | Spain
Cheese makers in northern Spain mix up this pungent blue cheese with a combination of goat’s milk and cow’s milk. Once it’s been mixed, the cheese is wrapped in oak and sycamore leaves for two to three months. The cheese weeps moisture as it ages which gives it the smell of moist and then rotting leaves. However, once the leaves are peeled away, the cheese tastes less foul than its wrapper. It’s traditionally served with round Marcona almonds and honey bread. 

Norwegian Brunost Cheese [Norway]

Cheese | Brunost
Origin | Norway
Brunost isn’t smelly, or particularly off-putting, but it probably stretches your definition of what can be called cheese. It’s a uniform brown color and it’s deeply sweet from caramelized milk sugars. Its sugary, buttery feel is usually what gives foreigners pause. In 2013, a truck-load of Brunost caught fire in a tunnel and burned uncontrollably for five days. Serve this combustible cheese in paper thin slices on good brown bread. Toast it if you dare. 

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Carmen Fifield

The delight of finding an unknown park, a captivating history museum or a fantastic desert means exploration is never far from Carmen Fifield’s mind. Carmen’s favorite travel memories include biking to historic sites on the island of Guernsey, huffing and puffing up the stairs to the Great Wall of China and eating the most delicious crab cake ever in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Carmen’s Favorite Travel Tip: Say goodbye to airplane food and tuck some fruit and your favorite sandwich into your carry-on.

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