Would you give it a try?
Yum. (Photo: Lars Einarsson/Kalmar County Museum)
When it comes to cheese, how stinky is too stinky? The aging process brings out certain prized characteristics, but is there a limit in how long cheese should mature? Or, to put it more bluntly, how would a 340-year-old cheese that absolutely reeks suit you?
Swedish scientists were recently re-exploring a shipwreck named the Kronan, which sunk into the Baltic Sea back in 1676. Twenty thousand items had been salvaged since the 1980s, including gold coins, cannons, pharmaceuticals, 400 kilograms of bones and partial skulls of crew members (with brain tissue).
The cheese was found more recently in a black tin on the ocean floor, according to The Local, when divers were searching areas underneath the wreckage. Researchers brought it back to the surface, but the lid came off in transit.
“That’s when the smell hit us,” researcher Lars Einarsson told Kvällsposten. “I certainly don’t recommend tasting it. It’s a mass of bacteria.”
Though somewhat repulsive, the scientists did describe the smell as a cross between (delicious) Roquefort and yeast. It was remarkably well-preserved, and described as “gooey” in consistency, though Einarsson wryly told The Local, “it has been at the bottom of the sea for 340 years—we're not talking Tutankhamun's burial chamber.”
The cheese is now being kept at low temperatures so researchers can learn as much as possible about the dairy artifact while they can. It could provide fascinating insight into 17th century Swedish diets, especially during war (the Kronan was a warship, sunk in battle).
For his part, Einarsson seems to be right on the border of wanting to take a little nibble—but just can’t bring himself there. "I think it smells quite nice, because I like exotic food,” Einarsson told The Local. “But I would not want to taste it."
But if you were to take the plunge, serving up that goo to curiosity seekers at a posh dinner party, one obvious question remains: What beverage pairs best with 340-year-old cheese? Might we suggest this 170-year-old shipwreck beer, with notes of goat and rotting cabbage? Bottoms up.