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Moldy Cheese

Mold is used to create many pungent cheese flavors.

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Photo: Steel Wool (flickr)

Molds are used to create different types of cheeses

Usually when we think of moldy foods, we picture a month-old loaf of bread forgotten in the back of a refrigerator.  But some moldy foods can be quite delicious.  For instance, many cheeses owe their sharp flavor to molds.

The making of any cheese is essentially a process of limited, controlled spoilage.  In effect, a mold partly digests, or rots the cheese.

A Good Kind Of Mold

The molds used to ripen cheese are not the molds that would naturally develop on the cheese over time, but are specially-produced molds.

During the process of aging any mold-ripened cheese, fats and proteins are broken down into strong smelling molecules.  These molecules give mold-ripened cheese its particularly strong odor and taste.

Blue Cheese And Injected Mold

A bluish-green mold helps ripen blue cheese, giving it its name, aroma and color.  In order to age blue cheese, a cheese maker injects the mold into the cheese.

Cheeses like blue cheese that are ripened from within are frequently washed or brushed to remove undesirable microorganisms which might interfere with the activity of the ripening mold inside.

Mold From The Outside

While blue cheese is mold-ripened from the inside, soft, pungent cheeses like Camembert and Brie are ripened from the outside with a coat of a white mold whose enzymes slowly penetrate the cheese and transform it from a chalky, bland solid, into the custard-like, creamy treat cheese fanciers love.

Of course, eating most moldy foods is not a good idea, but eating cheese that has ripened due to a special molding process can be a delectable experience.

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