(Part 2 of a series of 5 articles)
Mold ripened cheeses have distinct colors, tastes, and textures thanks to various bacterial cultures of Penicillium. The most familiar mold ripened cheeses are Brie, Gorgonzola and other Blue cheeses such as Stilton, Camembert and Cambozola. Each variation employs Penicillium bacteria to create unique flavors during the ripening or curd forming process.
Mold is typically applied to formed and drained cheeses during the salting process. The moldy rinds of Brie, Camembert and Cambozola are created by spraying the cheese with an aqueous solution of Penicillium candidum, Penicillium camemberti or Penicillium roqueforti. The mold then matures the cheese while it ripens. As the mold consumes lactate and lactic acid a bloom forms on the surface which results in the familiar white, powdery rind.
Gorgonzola, other Blue cheeses and Cambozola are inoculated with Penicillium glaucum, Pennicillium roqueforti and cheese making rennet when the curds are formed. During the molding process, metal rods are used to create holes in the cheese. These holes allow air to pass through the cheese which promotes bacterial growth. The mold grows into the holes creating the familiar blue veins found in Blue cheeses. Cambozola is unique, it is first treated like a Blue cheese, inoculated when curd is forming, then it is treated with an aqueous solution to create a rind similar to Brie and Camembert.
Mold ripened cheeses with rinds are creamy in the center due to the Penicillium molds. As the mold consumes acids, the pH of the cheese changes which allows proteins to easily bind with water molecules. This process is responsible for the creamy texture.
While these soft cheeses easily lend themselves to spreads, they also shine in the kitchen as supplementary. Mixing Gorgonzola into the final cooking phases of risotto makes a delicious buttery and colorful mixture. Brie is an excellent supplement to breakfast fruit. Eat it at room temperature with pears or warm it in the oven first to make the inside of the cheese creamier. Baking Camembert and then drizzling the creamy mixture over pasta and rosemary is divine. The warmed rind adds a chewy texture and a mushroom-like flavor to the meal.
The Blue cheeses, which can be dry and crumbly, are excellent additions to omelets, sandwiches and quiches. The salty, sharp taste also makes a delicious salad when served with nuts and fruit. Cambozola, with its combination of Blue and Brie flavor and texture, is an interesting addition to any meal that requires a creamy cheese.
A large variety of cheese owes thanks to the Penicillium family of bacteria for unique flavor and texture. The mold-ripened cheeses are a familiar group of cheeses that may be easily found in local groceries.
If you would like to make mold ripened cheeses like these, The Cheesemaker provides cheese making kits that can make some very delicious cheeses!