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Cheese Rinds

Jan
31


I’ve gotten interested in cheese rinds lately as I’ve lost interest in waxing cheese. Cheese wax costs money and, honestly, it’s just a hassle. You can wax most cheeses, even if they’re not traditionally aged in wax (such as Gouda), though some cheeses, such as Romano and Parmesan, are best aged rubbed in olive oil, and other cheeses, such as Camembert, depend on the development of a natural rind and should never be waxed. But just as you can wax most cheeses that aren’t traditionally waxed, you can not wax cheeses that are traditionally waxed. Most cheesemaking instructions will direct you to wax cheddar, Jack, and so on, but you don’t have to. In fact, it’s become very popular to not wax. It’s more artisanal to make a natural rind–it is, after all, how cheeses were originally aged before humankind figured out that we could seal cheeses to protect them from nasty mold. But just what is a natural rind?


There are several different types of cheese rinds. One is the “bloomy” rind which you find on such cheeses as Camembert and Brie. These are white mold-ripened cheeses and the rind is critical to their success. A connoisseur will tell you that you should also eat the rind as it is an important piece of the flavor story for these cheeses. Personally, I can’t stand the taste of the rind on these cheeses. It grosses me out. Maybe I’ve just never had a good one? I don’t know, but I don’t like it. (I haven’t yet tried to make any white mold-ripened cheeses.) See some pretty bloomy rind cheeses here.

“Washed” rind cheeses are made with the red bacteria linens, such as Muenster. The rind is “washed” or actually just lightly wiped with saltwater while aging, but sometimes may also be washed with brandy, beer, cider, etc. The rind is edible, but some people find it a little unpleasant. Oddly, I’m more inclined to eat this type of rind than the “bloomy” rind. See some pretty washed rind cheeses here.

Have you noticed how expensive all these cheeses are yet?!

Other cheeses that are often waxed can be made with a “natural” rind as well. A true natural rind is just that–the cheese is left to age unwaxed in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. (Your cheese cave, whatever your setup is, old fridge with hygrometer, etc.) Natural rinds require tending. Not only do the cheeses need to be turned regularly, they must be cleaned of unwanted molds and….mites. MITES. The moment a cheesemaking expert from New England Cheesemaking (when I inquired about natural rind-making) said the words “natural rind” and “mites” in the same sentence, I knew I was never making one.

However, I do want to share this awesome gallery of natural rinds aging in cheese caves. Are those cheeses beautiful or what? So okay, I should never say never. Maybe when I feel as if I am more expertly set up, I will try some true natural rinds. I do think you have to develop a taste for natural rinds. If you’ve grown up on Kraft cheese (like me), you may not find natural rinds immediately palatable. Though they are very pretty.

There are actually some professional cheesemakers who vacuum-seal their cheeses for aging. It approximates waxing and is cheaper. You can see right through the seal to what the cheeses are doing. I have a Food Saver vacuum-sealing thingy and I might try that. Another alternative for home cheesemakers that is even simpler, in place of waxing, is to place the cheese in a sealed baggie. I’ve been doing that quite a bit lately and I’ll report on how that comes out as the cheeses age. It’s much less hassle than waxing, doesn’t take the tending of a true natural rind as the cheese is protected, and like vacuum-sealing, it allows you to see the cheese as it ages. It’s not sealed as tightly as a vacuum seal, of course, but for shorter aged cheeses, such as three or four months, it’s worth the experiment.

Box of some bagged/some waxed cheeses–in the winter, I use a shut-off room in the basement for aging. It’s cold there.

I’m going to also try it with some longer-aged cheeses. I’ve got some Romano in a bag now. (Romano also has to have the rind oiled, but it’s easy enough to remove from the baggie and put back.) The point of waxing is to protect the rind from unwanted bacteria as it ages, but there is more than one way to skin a cat–or protect the cheese–if you prefer a “sealed” rind over a natural one. Yet another alternative is to “bandage” cheese by rubbing it with lard then wrapping it in cheesecloth. I haven’t tried this yet.

And–another method of wrapping cheese to age–leaves. Check out the leaf-wrapped cheeses here. Gorgeous! Even the descriptions are to die for. From one of the leaf-wrapped goat cheeses– “…dipped in plum brandy and sprinkled with coarse black pepper before being wrapped in two chestnut leaves to mature.” This is a cheese I need to marry.

Some of my recent cheeses–mostly Gouda, some cheddar and Romano:

How do you feel about natural cheese rinds? Love ’em, hate ’em? Eat ’em, don’t eat ’em?

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on January 31, 2011  

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43 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 1-31
    1:38
    am

    You should have grown up with Limburger.

  2. 1-31
    5:38
    am

    I eat the rind on brie, but that is the only one. The vacuum process would be pretty easy using one of those vacuum sealers you find in the grocery store. I am going to try your crock pot yogurt next. I will work up to cheese.

  3. 1-31
    7:26
    am

    I am not a real cheese gourmet….my palate is pretty simple….never had a natural rind cheese.

    I think your cheeses look very professional!

  4. 1-31
    7:39
    am

    The natural cheese rinds looks pretty and all, but I’m so used to Kraft (like you). I’ve just started enjoying Havarti. Actually we’re all hooked on it! I can’t wait for our goat to have her babies and I can start making cheeses!

  5. 1-31
    7:54
    am

    Oh I am definitely trying something other than waxing the cheese next time I make cheese…after I splashed wax all over my kitchen on my first attempt at waxing cheese, I’d rather do almost anything than go through that again. It may be ages before I get the wax scraped off every thing. ha! thanks for this Suzanne. You’re a treasure.

  6. 1-31
    8:00
    am

    Before you know it, you may be selling your cheeses to the Greenbriar or Tamarak for big $!

  7. 1-31
    8:06
    am

    last week I made my first Farmhouse chedder and today I’m going to wax it. I have an old crock pot that I’m just using for cheese wax. I love the rinds on brie, but will probably wax cheeses that are traditionaly waxed until I make a few more cheeses.

  8. 1-31
    8:34
    am

    All the cheeses I make are not aged as I still don’t have my cave. I tried Blue Cheese, but the weather took a turn to warmer and it must have been too wet to age, it spoiled in about 4 days. I have (like others) only had brie. I don’t remember eating the rind, it has been at least 10 years since I have had it. Aren’t I terrible. Now I would like to make it.

  9. 1-31
    8:54
    am

    Count me in with the group that doesn’t eat the rind. It is a psychological/emotional reaction. I know perfectly well that bloom on camembert and mold in blue cheese isn’t harmful – and even that the portions of cheese and some other foods I eat contain bacteria or mold – but the illogical part of my brain refuses to listen to the logical part. I simply can’t bring myself to put anything in my mouth that has visible mold or bacteria on it.

    I’m eager to hear how the ziplock bags go instead of waxing. I’ve finally gotten the waxing down to a pretty smooth operation, but it is a nuisance. I would love to switch to ziplock bags if it works well. I wouldn’t even care about the loss of some of the cheese if I ended up paring off the rind when ready to eat the cheese. At the price I’m paying for creamline milk, I would care about the loss of an entire cheese should the ziplock method not work. I’ll wait for Suzanne’s report! :D

  10. 1-31
    9:15
    am

    Don’t mind the natural rind on hard cheeses at all. Sometimes they actually add something to the taste (maybe it’s more textural?). Some of them remind me of a grautin, maybe?

    Must draw the line at mold! Don’t like it in or on anything, including cheese! But then, allergies require that I eat cheese sparingly since it all has some mold in it.

    But cheese is soooo goooood…. :snoopy:

  11. 1-31
    9:35
    am

    I’ll eat the rind…sparingly. Then, into the freezer. Rinds of hard cheeses find their way into soup. Other rinds find their way into gratins and other melted cheese dishes. Unlike Karen Anne, I did not grow up with limburger, but its German-American equivalent— Liederkranz. If I get to it before it’s too runny (or too fragrant) I can handle it. But when it’s fully ripe, not so much. It’s been off the market for years, but it’s been back a year. Hmmm think I’ll stop for a nosh of stilton, rind and all.

  12. 1-31
    9:37
    am

    I love the rind on hard cheeses such as pecorino or parmesian. I will often grate it along with the rest of the cheese and no one ever knows the difference. With other cheeses it depends on what I’m using it for. For instance, if I bake brie I always keep the rind on it. But if I’m eating it any other way, I cut it off.

    I love the idea of using a vacuum sealer though. The cost of wax is one of the things keeping me from trying hard cheeses. Now I’m even more excited for my goats to be in milk again.

  13. 1-31
    9:46
    am

    I am getting a real education when I come for a visit now! Love good cheese and often buy the ones that are natural casing. I usually peel it away but I have grated it into gratins or casseroles. It has alot of flavor but sometimes it’s just too hard. Not a clue what makes it that way. I can’t imagine the luxury of having a hoard of cheese in my basement, you are living my dream…I’ve said that before, haven’t I? :lol:

  14. 1-31
    9:50
    am

    I eat the rind on brie, and usually try the rind on other cheeses, sometimes I eat em, sometimes not. I not fussy about mold on cheese either, as long as it’s that dusty light mold cheese gets normally, NOT big furry green and orange mold though! :lol: Still, no fussy tummies in our house!

    Have you found any chestnut trees in your woods? I wonder what other leaves might be good… I still say you need a nice big milk goat like a Nubian or Saanen so you have enough goats milk for cheese too! Yikes! More kids! This makes me miss having goaters even more now. *sigh*

  15. 1-31
    9:59
    am

    Sometimes when I order a cheese plates or paired wine tasting I wonder if they are actually serving me the rind.

  16. 1-31
    10:32
    am

    I guess that I am one of the few who enjoy the bloom on Camembert and Brie. DH’s grandmother was from France and introduced me to the pleasure of these two cheeses. Parmesan rind goes into the soup pot. Haven’t had any of the other cheese with rinds – just wax. Your cheeses look fantastic.

  17. 1-31
    10:47
    am

    I’ve always eaten the rind on soft bloomy cheeses like Brie and on Munster. I think it adds a lot to the taste–the tang of salt on washed rinds and an intensity of flavor to Brie and the bloomy cheese. Other harder rind cheeses like Parmesan I save for cooking and, again, think it has a different intensity of flavor.
    I worked for a while in a cheese shop and got to taste many different kinds of cheeses. It was there that I first began to understand the delicious complexity of moldy cheese like the various blue cheeses. I consider some of them the most interesting and complex interactions between the cultures that actually make cheese, the density of the cheese and the molds.YUMMM. And, they don’t have to be the rather harsh blues we sometimes get but can be really smooth, mild meltingly delicious milky cheese to savor. You got to try these eventually, Suzanne, if you like blue cheese at all.

  18. 1-31
    11:02
    am

    I like the flavor of most natural rind cheeses but not all. However, they often add incredible flavor to other dishes – I always add a parmesan rind when I make marinara sauce, for example. So they have their place, I think. :)

  19. 1-31
    11:20
    am

    Trader Joe’s has a traditional French Brie (all their other Bries are too young, not meltingly sublime). This wedge of cheese will stink up my refrigerator in a half hour. It is wonderful and I will eat the whole wedge all by myself including the rind. My honey doesn’t yet appreciate this cheese, which is okay because: more for me!

  20. 1-31
    11:54
    am

    I am the weirdo that loves all the rinds. Brie, Camembert, the slight rind of Beercase, disgusting rinds of anything.

    I think it really cool that you are getting away from the wax; that does sound like an extreme amount of work, and counter-productive to the frugality of your process. Especially interesting will be the vacuum-pack thing…I’ve been toying with the idea of getting one….

  21. 1-31
    12:00
    pm

    Grew up on Kraft as well and just want to go on the record….I am never eating the rind! Apparently my mother never knew when she bought “expensive” cheese those few times that we should do anything other than throw away that yucky part! :pawprint:

  22. 1-31
    12:05
    pm

    Okay, I have to ask the question: what do you do with all that cheese?? I know you have two teenagers and two adults in the house, but that’s still a lot of cheese!! I love a good camembert, rind and all! We don’t do cheese much any more due to DH’s health issues, more’s the pity, cause he loves the stuff. Goat goudas, stilton with apricots,a good sharp cheddar, etc. Yum, Yum, Yum!!!!!

  23. 1-31
    12:09
    pm

    When we lived in the States and had a vacuum packer, I used that for my cheeses. I think it would have worked better if I had let them sit on the counter for a couple of days to dry out a bit before sealing them; they ended up swimming in whey in the bag at times. Now, I either wax them (with paraffin, because that’s what I have at the moment) or just let them form a rind. I don’t have a cool place to keep them (no basements here!) so I just keep them in the cupboard and they end up however they end up. I cut the rind/wax off and most of the time it goes out to the pigs because it is too hard to chew. Sometimes, if it’s not a very old cheese, we’ll eat the rind.

  24. 1-31
    12:12
    pm

    Emma, I do let my cheeses dry several days before I put them in the sealed baggies.

    Sue, we eat it!!!! LOL!

  25. 1-31
    2:41
    pm

    I LOVE Munster cheese! I eat every bit of it, red-ish orange stuff and all! =) I have only made the soft cheeses and they never last long enough to consider storing longer than a week. I am planning on making hard cheeses this year and will probably use bags or a vacuum sealer.

  26. 1-31
    4:47
    pm

    I especially like to wrap the rind of brie around a grape.

    I can’t imagine getting blue, stilton or limburger anywhere past my chin, let alone INTO my mouth!!!! I need a ‘shudder’ emoticon!!

    Then again, I eat PB and cucumber sandwiches regularly. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM :happyfeet: :D

    Pam

  27. 1-31
    5:18
    pm

    I don’t mind the rind – if it’s edible (i.e. has flavor and is not too hard). I love the soft rinds of Brie and Camembert and dislike waxed cheeses (don’t ask me why!). I am pretty adventurous with cheese and rarely have met one I didn’t like (Limberger would be an exception), but even I would have a hard time with this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casu_marzu (it’s a cheese crawling with live larvae!) :no:

  28. 1-31
    5:29
    pm

    Suzanne, I have a great idea! I’d be glad to store some of your gorgeous cheeses in my cellar here in Kansas. I’m an equal opportunity rind person & I eat them all. Let me know if I can be of help. I’m thinking only of you.

  29. 1-31
    8:41
    pm

    Try tossing a hunk of cheese rind (not the bloomy kind) in a simmering pot of soup for a depth of flavor and a stringy cheesy surprise to be scooped up with bread or crackers! I use that at work when I made things like Sausage and White Bean Soup or any Italian style soup. It’s really good!

  30. 1-31
    8:42
    pm

    p.s. My kingdom for Gouda!!!

  31. 1-31
    9:16
    pm

    I also do not like “bloomy” rinds. They are just too strong tasting for me, at least usually. However, I DO like washed rinds, like beer- or wine- washed cheeses.

    I am also not a big fan of blue cheeses. Like the bloomy rinds, they are just too strong of a flavor for my taste.

  32. 2-1
    10:29
    am

    I usually just buy the commerical stuff, but have started trying a few of the artisans lately.

  33. 2-1
    10:36
    am

    Ah, Martha in KS, I’m SURE (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) that you are just thinking of Suzanne when you offer a home to her cheeses in your cellar–though I wouldn’t bet many of them would make their way home to West Virginia. I think Suzanne is trying to convert us all to cheesemaking. Unfortunately I don’t have a BP to milk or lovely goats. Sigh! Once you wean those cutie pie babies, Suzanne, you’ll have to try some goats milk cheeses or mixed goat and cows milk cheese. We’ll all just sit here and salivate at your lovely pictures and descriptions.

    During the summer I buy most of my produce at the local farmers market and there’s a guy who brings artisan local cheeses to sell–expensive but oh, so good. He has a gouda cheese with stinging nettles in it that is great–and the sting goes away when you prepare them for the cheese. Its a lovely dark ivory colored cheese with a great flavor. As for blue cheese, Danish blue cheese are much, much milder with a salty taste. I’ve bought a local blue cheese (Gorgonzola style) with dried apricots added to it–YUMMMY. And a little stronger are some of the beautiful Siltons with really complex flavor. (There is a good bit of controversy as to whether or not to eat the rind of stiltons–some people do, some don’t.) Really you guys, find a nice Danish-style blue cheese and you’ll reconsider blue cheese–very mild and tasty.

  34. 2-1
    1:42
    pm

    Suzanne, your pix of all those beautiful cheeses are really quite fetching. They’d look great in a cheese chop cooler, Which, by some mis-fired neuron, leads me to think of the most famous cheese chop around.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3KBuQHHKx0&feature=related

  35. 2-1
    2:56
    pm

    I love all those salty moldy cheeserinds with a nice glass of french red wine. The only cheese I have met (So far) that I haven’t liked is gjetost- a swedish sweet goats milk cheese…blech!

  36. 2-1
    3:00
    pm

    I’ve done natural rind and waxed cheeses. Definitely prefer the natural rind. Have you considered a bandaged or wrapped cheddar? The mold grows on the cheesecloth, but when you take the wrap off, the mold comes off with it. Barely touches the cheese at all. It’s really simple too. There’s a link on New England Cheesemaking’s website, and it’s my favorite way of doing cheddar.

  37. 2-3
    6:14
    am

    Count me in with the cheese rind eaters. Yummm!!! :hungry2:
    I have to say, though, freezing and saving them to add to soup sounds delicious.

  38. 2-3
    3:02
    pm

    I’ve waxed some cheddars; I think that because I’m not doing LOTS of cheeses waxing doesn’t seem so burdensome to me. But I’ve just done my first Parmesan and a Manchego that are natural rind cheeses, and I’m paranoid about them! Keeping them from drying out, how much olive oil is too much, or too little? Really just one dose gets it done? Really? Sometimes seeing what’s going on is even more nervous making ;).

    Oh, and I’m in the “eat the bloom” camp. My camemberts are just better the closer you get to the bloom….don’t want to miss a bit.

  39. 2-15
    8:01
    pm

    I’ve been making cheese for 4 years now after taking a week long course at CalPoly San Luis Obispo, Ca. They don’t have enough students to turn their cheese daily so they vacuum seal. I tried that and especially my Jack cheeses became slimy with a milky liquid after taking them out, cutting some and putting it back. I have done bloomy rinds and they work. I’ve now gone to cloth wrapped cheddar smeared with crisco. I’m going to try washed and natural rinds when I get the temp and humidity set in my frig.

  40. 3-28
    10:46
    pm

    Thanks for the non-waxing tips. I’m draining my first hard cheese as I write (the Farmhouse Cheddar from New England Cheese…), and I’ve got that handy dandy food vacuum thingamabob hanging around in my cabinet. I’ll let you know in a couple months how it turned out. Love your website, BTW. Just found it while looking for waxing alternatives.

  41. 5-19
    1:54
    pm

    I just found out that vacuum sealing doesn’t work. We vacuum packed our cheddar and when I opened it, it was sour. So went to cheese maker site and they said that it kills the culture and stops the aging. But, it does look like some professional cheesemakers do the vacuum sealing, so I don’t know what I did wrong, or if it does kill the culture…

  42. 5-19
    2:15
    pm

    I’ve heard of professional cheesemakers doing the vacuum sealing, too. I’ve never tried it yet myself.

  43. 5-19
    2:38
    pm

    We tried it and it tasted sour and kind of off, and the bag was filled with whey. So, I think I am going to order cheese wax or try bee’s wax or try natural rind cheese…

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