Bloomy rind cheeses: what they are and what’s great about them

You may have heard the term “bloomy rind” cheese used by your local cheesemonger or your foodie friends but you are none the wiser – what does it really mean? Allow me to demystify this wonderful family of cheeses for you, after all it is one of the most delicious and sought-after cheese families.

In essence

Bloomy rind cheeses are soft cheeses that have a white skin on them (sometimes with brownish veins). These cheeses are usually aged only for a few weeks and during this short time they develop a snowy ‘blooming’ rind. This rind predominantly consists of geotrichum candidum and penicillium candidum moulds and is edible. The word “bloomy” refers to the way that these moulds look on the cheese during the ripening process – they look fluffy like young kittens’ fur. However, once the cheeses get wrapped in paper for retail, their fluffiness is all but gone.

Brie de Meaux: the classic French brie

Flavour and texture

In terms of flavour, these cheeses are buttery, creamy and often mushroomy – this particular flavour note we can thank their bloomy rind for. The part of the cheese beneath the rind, also known as paste or pâte, is soft and yielding and may become runny and gooey with age.

When these cheeses are relatively young, they will have a chalky centre and a slight zing – some people really enjoy it at this stage. As the ripening process progresses, the activity of geotrichum candidum and p.candidum moulds breaks the paste down from the outside in, making it all uniformly soft and glossy. That’s why these cheeses are also called “surface ripened”. Extra ripe varieties of bloomy rind cheeses may have a slight ammoniated smell and taste – a touch of it is completely acceptable but it is a matter of personal preference.

Paddy’s Mile Stone: Scottish soft cows’ milk cheese

Milk

Bloomy rind cheeses may be made from any type of milk – cow’s, sheep’s, and goat’s. Brie de Meaux and Camembert de Normandie are the most classic examples of bloomy rind cheeses, whereas the modern-day examples of this cheese family are Delices des Cremiers, Baron Bigod, Paddy’s Mile Stone and Wigmore, to name but a few. The best specimen of bloomy rind cheeses are made with raw milk – not only they are more complex and intense in flavour, they also have probiotic qualities.

La Tur: soft Italian cheese made from a blend of cows’, goats’ and ewes’ milk

Shelf-life and enjoyment

Bloomy rind cheeses have a relatively high moisture content and that’s why they will keep in your fridge for a maximum of two weeks, unless the piece that you buy is fully ripe on the day of purchase (that’s something you can find out from your cheesemonger). Speaking of moisture content – it is the water retained in the curd that makes bloomy rind cheeses soft and not their fat content. Contrary to the common belief, soft cheeses are  actually lighter in fat content than their firm and hard counterparts. The notable exception is the triple crème bloomy rind cheeses.

Complement bloomy rind cheeses with fresh or dried fruit, fresh baguette, buttermilk crackers or toasty fruit and nut bread. Suitable drinks range from cider to champagne to fruity red wines and off-dry whites.

 

The Cheese Lady x

 

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