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Aisy Cendre cheese is a traditional French farmhouse cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. What distinguishes this semi-soft cheese from others like it is the layer of ash that coats its rind. It is this ash — or cendre, in French — that gives the cheese its name.
To make this unique cheese, which hails from the Burgundy region of France, an immature washed-rind cheese — most typically an Epoissesis covered with oak or grapevine ash and left to mature for a period of no less than a month. Before being buried, and sometimes afterward too, the cheese is washed in wine, a popular choice being marc de Bourgogne.
During the time that it spends covered in ash, the cheese ripens, but for Aisy Cendre cheese, the process is a relatively slow one. The paste of the mature cheese will eventually ripen until it softens, but most enthusiasts of this cheese usually prefer to enjoy it while it is still somewhat firm.
The aroma of Aisy Cendre cheese is domineering, and the flavor is assertive. With a minimum of 50 percent fat, Aisy Cendre cheese possesses a pronounced creaminess, melting on the tongue. The center of the cheese is salty, chalky, and nearly white in color. Moving outward, away from the center and toward the ash-covered rind, the paste grows smoother and creamier and takes on a lightly smoky flavor.
Aisy Cendre is usually formed and sold in small wheels that are approximately 4 inches (10 cm) wide and 1.5 inches (3.5 cm) high. These weigh perhaps 8 ounces (230 g) each.
Aisy Cendre cheese performs best at the table on the cheese board. Serve it with a crusty baguette, crisp autumn fruits like apples and pears, celery sticks, and a fruity, full-bodied Burgundy wine or even a well-rounded beer.
Because the coating of ash contributes a layer of grit to the rind, use a vegetable brush or a clean dish towel to brush away the ash from the surface of the cheese before cutting and serving. The ash does diminish the stickiness of the rind somewhat, but the tradeoff is often an unpleasantly gritty texture that makes some cheese lovers forgo consuming the rind.
If you like Aisy Cendre cheese, some similar cheeses to try include Soumaintrain, Affidelice, and Olivet Cendre.