Doesn’t mold sound yummy? I mean you can’t have a tasty treat without a healthy covering of mold am I right? Believe it or not, many cheese lovers would absolutely agree with the above statement! While it is usually a solid sign to throw out its host, there are many types of cheese where just the right type of mold is coaxed and encouraged to grow. In some cheeses (blue cheese anyone?) this ingredient is actually injected into the cheese to produce that unique and strong flavor.
But first! A definition of what makes this mold different.
“The molds and micro flora used in cheese making are actually microscopic organisms that are safe to eat. They produce distinct aromas and flavors on their own, as well as through integration with the cheese. It is not unusual for multiple strains to be used in a single cheese. This is often done when a secondary organism creates or improves the environment for the primary organism.”
-James R. Leverentz, The Complete Idiots Guide to Cheese making
All cheese will grow mold if left alone long enough. The key is knowing if it is meant to be there or not! Soft cheeses like cream cheese, sour cream, or even our Paneer should be thrown away if you see any colorful spots. However, harder cheeses like cheddar or Gouda can be cleaned up and enjoyed. Simply cut away the outer quarter to half an inch, and use the remaining cheese within a week.
One popular type of cheese with a deliberate moldy rind is Camembert. The only cheese in our store we do not make in house is a Cirrus Camembert we bring in from Mt. Townsend Creamery. Come in and try it for yourself! As this cheese is aging, it is sprayed with a specific type of mold called Penicillium candidum. As it grows, the fuzzy white stuff is patted down periodically to create an edible rind covering the entire surface. The result is a cheese with a soft, mild center with a flavorful coating!
Blue cheese is another popular cheese which uses mold as a key ingredient. This one is called Penicillium roqueforti. It is layered in with the curd as it’s being pressed into shape. Then, it’s activated by “spiking” (injecting) the cheese with air to expose the bacteria. This is what causes the little blue-green, flavor packed ribbons this type of cheese is named for!
Chances are, if you just adore cheese, you will end up liking these types of cheeses eventually. In my younger years I didn’t care for anything with a strong flavor, especially anything with an older age. Now, I love older cheeses, especially over milder flavors. If you are just beginning your cheese journey however, I would start with something a little milder before jumping into a full on aged blue. But hey, if you are a bold person, then go for it!