What is this shit all up on my cheese?
…. Can I eat it?
Simply put, the rind is the outer skin on a wheel of cheese that forms during the cheesemaking and aging process. There are three types of rinds: bloomy, washed, and natural rinds.
OK, enough with the fancy monger talk. Are you supposed to eat these things or nah?
There’s really no “supposed to” here; it’s all relative to your individual palate. Unless they’re coated in an inedible substance like wax, most rinds are safe to eat – but they’re not palatable for everyone
I can’t think of a better explanation than this quote from my friend Jordan Edwards, cheesemonger at local Chicago shop Pastoral:
“My rule of thumb is unless it’s covered in wax, try it at least once. The rind is basically concentrated cheese. It’s kind of like cooking with peppers: if you want more heat, leave in the seeds. If you want less, don’t eat the seeds.”
A good, well-cared for cheese rind is a glorious thing – but they aren’t for everyone, especially not for the faint of palate. They are intensely flavorful.
Personally, I’m a devoted member of the rind eaters club. I love the peppery notes of a bloomy rind on a lightly aged goat cheese, the barnyard funk of an earthy stilton-style, and I even like to chew on rinds coated in flavorings – like the flower-studded skin on Lola Montez.
I challenge you to try one of each type of rind at least once in your life. If you find rinds aren’t for you, save the leftovers for making stocks and think nothing else of it. Otherwise, you might land in the throes of a new love affair.
Achin’ to learn more about cheese rinds? Read on to learn more about each type!
The Bloomy Rind
That marshmallowy white stuff on the outside of your brie is called a bloomy rind. Before aging, these cheeses are coated with an edible mold, such as Penicillium candidum. Because the cheeses are ripened from the outside-in, surface ripened, a seductive gooey layer often forms around the fudgy paste on the inside. The resulting rind can be fluffy, wrinkly, and powdery in appearance.
Examples: Camembert, Brie de Meaux, Coupole
Flavor notes: fresh pepper, mushrooms
The Washed Rind
Ever get a whiff of sweaty gym sock only to discover that the source is actually a pudgy little cheese with a rosy rind? That was probably a washed rind cheese. While you can smell their stench from afar, inside those orange and red-hued rinds lies a fudgy, luscious paste that’s usually much tamer. These stinkers are washed in brine, alcohol or both to encourage the growth of a bacteria called B. Linens. These rinds can be a bit sticky and sometimes even crunchy. Some hate them, some love them, but they’re always a grand conversation starter
Examples: Taleggio, Époisse, Gruyere
Flavor notes: beef stock, fresh sourdough
The Natural Rind
Left to its own devices, cheese naturally forms a rind. The air draws moisture out of the surface of the wheel forming a dry, thin crust. These rinds are sometimes coated with cloth or wax but they can also be rubbed with oils, spices, and flavorings like espresso.
Examples: Manchego, Jeffs’ Signature Gouda, Bayley Hazen Blue
Flavor notes: barnyard, forest moss
Naked Cheese (No Rind)
Theses include fresh cheeses that aren’t old enough to have a rind and cheeses aged in foil or vacuum-sealed plastic, like block cheddar.
Examples: Chiriboga Blue, Feta, Wisconsin Cheddar
Flavor notes: tastes the same as the paste
To learn more about cheese rinds, visit the following resources:
- Three Types of Cheese Rinds…Are They Edible? – About.com
- Scientists Uncover a Surprising World of Microbes in Cheese Rind – Wired.com
- Cheese Rinds: To Eat or Not to Eat? – CheeseUnderground.blogspot.com