You've Had Bloomy Rind Cheese and Didn't Even Know It
One of the most beloved categories of specialty cheese, bloomy rind styles are covered with a white, downy rind, which is often a mix of penicillium candidum (fluffy white-colored mold) and geotrichum candidum (squiggly cream-colored fungus). The most popular bloomy rind cheeses among us are widely available - such as brie and camembert. Bloomy rind cheeses can be made with any milk breed - such as the crottin goat cheese from France, and the robiola tre latti (three milks - cow, goat, and sheep) made in Italy.
Origins of Bloomy Rind Cheese
One of the origins of bloomy rind cheese started in wives' cellars in Normandy, France. Before refrigeration, wives would transform soured raw milk into small discs of salted cheese, and then store them in the cool cellar. This highly acidic curd attracted the region's molds and fungus and resulted in a cheese now widely known as Camembert. The rind does not only have a unique appearance. It also helps facilitate the two to four week ripening process that contributes to the cheese's inherent flavor and texture.
Factors That Effect Ripening
As a bloomy rind cheese ages, the cheese's lactic acid will continue to help break down curd into something more complex, flavorful, and aromatic. The ripening of bloomy rind cheese can go one of a few ways. It depends on the height and density (water content) of the cheese.
The shorter, squatter bloomy rind cheeses with a high moisture content will continue to breakdown into a spreadable and gooey wonder bursting with mushroom-y and earthy flavors (see How to Store & Ripen Camembert Cheese.)
The taller, denser cheeses with less moisture will not breakdown in the interior but the bloomy rind will still impart a white button mushroom, often mineral flavor to the cheese. (See Capriole's Piper Pyramid Cheese in this post)
The shorter, squatter bloomy rind cheeses with a high moisture content will be stunted in the flavor and texture potential.
The taller, denser cheeses with less moisture will become even more dense and the rind will slow down in its bloomy development. This often happens since the cheese continues to lose its water weight, which is not always a bad thing - in the case of french Crottin (see How to Store & Ripen French Crottin).
Best Way to Store Bloomy Rind Cheese
The Cheese Grotto was designed specifically with this style of cheese in mind. The Cheese Grotto provides that balance of humidity, airflow, and natural materials to allow specialty bloomy rind cheese to thrive. You'll notice the rind will keep developing if the Grotto is stored on the kitchen counter or in the fridge.
If the Grotto is out of your budget currently, we recommend you consult the 3 Best Ways to Store Cheese article!
How to Serve Bloomy Rind Cheese
It is always, always recommended to let your cheese come to room temperature before you enjoy it. The experience is so vastly different, it is a shame to do otherwise. And, of course, serve the cheese with its beautiful rind full of flavors of mushrooms, minerals, and earth - it's nature's compliment to the paste of the cheese. (See American Bloomy Rind Tasting Notes for more detail on how to taste bloomy rind cheese)
Pairing Food and Wine with Bloomy Rind Cheese
Bloomy rind cheese often pairs well with white and medium-bodied red wines. If the bloomy rind cheese is more rich and creamy, and leads with the flavor of grassfed butter, go ahead and pair it with a sparkling white or white wine. If the Bloomy rind cheese is funky, and a little older and spreadable with notes of asparagus, mushroom, soil, a juicy berry pinot noir is always a good choice.