National Moldy Cheese Day Picks
Stinky cheese lovers rejoice, October 9 is National Moldy Cheese Day! While blue cheeses seem to be the most obvious moldy cheese choice, soft-ripened and washed-rind cheeses are also covered with edible mold. Typically mold on food has a negative connotation, but when special strains of mold are added and the mold growth is closely controlled and monitored by cheesemakers, it can be extremely beneficial to both the flavor and texture of the cheese.
Blue cheese is made by first heating the milk, and then adding a starter culture which causes the milk to begin separating into curds and whey. Then, mold spores are added—either Penicillium roqueforti or Penicillium glaucum—along with rennet. Once curds form, the cheese is pressed into the desired shape, and is then salted and dried. As it dries, the cheesemaker needles the cheese to allow the mold to travel into the cavities and create the signature veining. The cheese is then left to age for the desired amount of time, the average being around 2 months. Blue cheeses that are aged for longer periods of time have a more pungent flavor.
Bloomy rind cheeses get their white, fuzzy rinds from molds Penicillium candidum or Penicillium camemberti and yeast being introduced to the surface of the cheese during the cheese-making process. The mold and yeast metabolizes the fat and protein of the cheese from the outside in, resulting in an extremely creamy and gooey interior texture and earthy, mushoomy flavors. The longer a bloomy rind cheese is aged, the more creamy its texture and complex its flavor.
Mold on cheese is not always welcome. If you find fuzzy green or blue mold growing on your cheese in the back of the fridge, it is your best bet to throw the whole piece away. It is much more difficult for mold spores to penetrate hard, dry cheeses such as Parmigiano and Manchego. If you find a pesky patch of mold growing on a hard cheese, you can cut the mold out and the cheese will still be good to enjoy. Just to be safe, also cut out about 1 inch around the mold patch.
This National Moldy Cheese Day, show your appreciation to the good molds of the world and snack on one of these cheeses:
Cypress Grove Little Giant
Image courtesy of Cypress Grove Cheese.
Little Giant is a soft-ripened goat's milk cheese full of big flavor! It has a buttery, delicate and goat-y flavor and a fudgy core.
Its edible rind is white and smooth. As Little Giant nears its expiration date, the creamline right below the rind will get increasingly creamy and runny. "With subtly sweet, yeast-like flavors of bread fresh out of the oven and mushroomy notes that intensify as the cheese matures, this little goat cheese is mild and delectable at any age." Pair it with Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. Brown some butter and bake Little Giant with walnuts and fresh sage (recipe) for a ooey gooey fall appetizer.
Image courtesy of This is Fine Cheese.
You get the best of both moldy worlds with this soft-ripened blue cheese. The producer of this cheese, Käserei Champignon, describes Cambozola as, "[bringing] together in harmony two distinct styles of cheese: the rich creaminess of a brie with the piquant notes of a blue cheese." It is mellower than your typical blue, therefore it is a great cheese for those first diving into the world of blue cheese. Cambozola Classic has a creamy interior with few patches of blue mold and an edible white, bloomy rind. Pair it with a red wine or a strong beer.
Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue
Image courtesy of Rogue Creamery.
This blue cheese is gently smoked over Oregon hazelnut shells and then cave aged for at least 90 days. This process imparts aromas of barrel-aged vanilla, bread pudding, and candied bacon and spicy-sweet flavors of honey, apple, and nectarine with a subtle blue tang. Smokey Blue's texture is crumbly yet buttery, meaning that you can crumble it on a burger or spread it onto a crusty piece of bread. The bold flavors of this cheese can stand up to full-bodied reds and slightly-sweet whites.
Vermont Creamery Coupole
Image courtesy of Vermont Creamery.
This little cheese was named due to its likeness to a snow-covered dome. From the words of Vermont Creamery, "Coupole is an aged goats' milk cheese with a wrinkly edible rind and bright, fresh cheese taste. Coupole’s allure is attributable to the intriguing contrast between the strong ripened flavor of the rind and the delicate fresh taste of its interior." Coupole has a wrinkly Geotrichum rind, which is created by the addition of Geotrichum candidum mold during the cheesemaking process. Many people consider the rind to be the best part of these types of cheeses. Enjoy Coupole with Riesling, Lambic beer, blueberry honey or chili peppers.
Jasper Hill Farm Harbison
Image courtesy of Jasper Hill Farm.
Jasper Hill Farm Harbison is an ultra gooey, almost fondue-like soft-ripened cheese. The rind is wrinkly and white with some brown streaks. It has a buttery yet herbaceous flavor with delicate notes of roasted hazelnuts and lemon. Harbison is wrapped in a strip of spruce cambium, which is the interior bark layer of spruce trees. This bark is harvested right from Jasper Hill’s woodlot. This does not only add a woodsy aroma to the cheese, but helps the gooey, creamy cheese keep its shape and structure. The best way to eat this cheese is to cut off the top and dig into the luxurious, melty interior with a spoon or cracker. Check out my full feature on Harbison here!
Ambrosi Gorgonzola Dolce
Image courtesy of Ambrosi.
This Italian cow's milk Gorgonzola has a creamy, spreadable texture and a mild blue flavor. The mild blue tang is accompanied by slightly-sweet flavors of butter and sour cream. There are beautiful, bluish purple veins throughout the pale yellow paste. Riesling and IPAs can stand up to the blue flavor of Gorgonzola Dolce. The sweet notes of this cheese will also compliment sweet accompaniment like jams and fruit.