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Soft-Ripened Cheese

Soft-ripened cheese, also referred to as bloomy rind cheese, is a delectable category of cheese known for its creamy texture, rich flavor, and distinctive edible white rind. This type of cheese has been a beloved culinary delight for centuries and continues to be a favorite among cheese connoisseurs and food enthusiasts worldwide.

Brie cheese with gooey interior.

Soft-Ripened Cheese Production

Soft-ripened cheeses are typically made from cow's milk, although other varieties can be crafted using goat or sheep's milk. The process begins by adding specific cultures, enzymes, and rennet to the milk, causing it to coagulate and form curds. Once the curds have formed, they are cut, drained, and placed into molds. The cheese is then allowed to drain further and develop its initial shape.

The Role of Penicillium Candidum

The defining characteristic of soft-ripened cheese is the presence of a particular mold called Penicillium candidum. This mold is responsible for the white, velvety rind that gives these cheeses their distinctive appearance. As the cheese ages, the mold continues to grow, breaking down the interior, and causing it to soften and develop a creamy texture.

Close-up photo of white Brie cheese rind.

Flavor and Aroma

Soft-ripened cheeses are celebrated for their complex and often luxurious flavor profiles. The white, bloomy rind imparts a slightly tangy and earthy taste, while the interior paste offers a creamy, buttery, and sometimes slightly nutty or mushroomy flavor. The combination of these contrasting elements makes soft-ripened cheese a delight for the palate.

Varieties of Soft-Ripened Cheese

Soft-ripened cheeses come in various forms and styles, each with its own unique characteristics. Some well-known examples include:

1. Brie: Originating from France, Brie is perhaps the most famous soft-ripened cheese. It has a mild, creamy interior and a soft, edible white rind. Brie is often enjoyed with fruits, bread, and wine.

2. Camembert: Similar to Brie but with a slightly stronger flavor, Camembert also hails from France. It is known for its rich, creamy texture and earthy undertones.

3. Triple Crème: Characterized by its high butterfat content, typically containing more than 75% butterfat in the dry matter. These cheeses are incredibly decadent, with a high fat content due to the addition of extra cream during the cheesemaking process. They are exceedingly creamy and indulgent.

4. Geotrichum Rind:  One of the most notable characteristics of these cheeses is their white, wrinkled rind. This rind develops as the Geotrichum candidum fungus grows on the surface of the cheese. Geotrichum candidum fungus contributes to a slightly tangy, earthy, and mushroom-like flavor. It can also impart a hint of acidity and creaminess to the cheese.

5. Soft-Ripened Blue: Soft-ripened blue cheeses are beloved by many for their bold and complex flavors. The combination of creamy textures and the characteristic blue veining makes them a distinctive and sought-after choice for cheese enthusiasts and gourmets.

6. Soft-Ripened Blended Milk: Soft-ripened blended milk cheeses are a delightful subset of the broader cheese category that combines milk from different animals, typically cow, sheep, and/or goat, to create a unique and balanced flavor profile. These cheeses are known for their creamy textures and complex taste.

Cut brie cheese.
Triple Creme cheese on platter with fresh figs.
Vermont Creamery Coupole cheese with a geotrichum rind.

Image source: Vermont Creamery

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Soft Ripened Goat.jpg

Pairings and Serving

Soft-ripened cheeses are incredibly versatile in the kitchen. They can be served at room temperature with a variety of accompaniments, such as crusty bread, fresh fruit, honey, or nuts. The creamy texture of these cheeses makes them ideal for spreading on crackers or as a filling for sandwiches and pastries. They also pair wonderfully with sparkling wines, white wines, and even champagne.

Proper Storage

To preserve the quality of soft-ripened cheese, it's essential to store it correctly. These cheeses should be kept in a cool, humid environment to prevent them from drying out or becoming too runny. Cheese enthusiasts often use specialty cheese paper or wax paper to wrap soft-ripened cheeses.

In conclusion, soft-ripened cheese is a delightful and versatile category of cheese that offers a wide range of flavors and textures to please the palate. Whether enjoyed on its own, as part of a cheese board, or incorporated into various culinary creations, these cheeses are a testament to the art and science of cheesemaking, providing a delectable taste of tradition and craftsmanship.

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