Should You Eat the Rind on Cheese?

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iStock

To eat the rind or not eat the rind, that is the question everyone wonders before diving into a sumptuous cheese plate. The rind is the outside layer that is part of the cheese’s aging process. It’s sort of like the crust on bread—it’s part of the cheese so you can in fact, and absolutely should (depending how adventurous your palate is), eat it. Well, that is unless of course the rind is made out of wax, bark, or cheesecloth. Yuck.

The rind is where the ripening starts, which is why a cheese’s most complex and often most pungent tastes (and smells) live there.

There are four major kinds of edible rinds: bloomy, washed, natural, and dry. Within each of these categories are oodles of fascinating subcategories. The rind can tell you the story of how the cheese was made and a great deal about the flavor profile before you even bite into it.

Bloomy Rinds

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These are the soft, sometimes fuzzy rinds that grow on the outside of familiar cheeses like Brie and Bucheron. Cheesemakers add a solution of bacteria, like Penicillium candidum, to the outside of the cheese which causes mold to then bloom and grow until it hardens all around the cheese. The bacteria breaks down the fat and gives the cheese a beautiful creamy texture. Depending on the type of milk, you may get notes that are buttery and Chardonnay-like (cow), tangy and peppery (goat), or citric and sweet (sheep).

Bloomy rinds are some of the most approachable rinds out there...even if they can sometimes look a little funky. The fuzz is totally fine so long as it’s not yellow, orange, red, or dark blue/black. If it gives off a strong ammonia-like smell, then step away from the cheese. If the rind looks like a brain...eat it. That’s just the Geotrichum fungus doing its job, and it’s delicious. Mmmm...braaaaaains. Or rather, mmmmm…Chabichou.

Washed Rind

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These bad boys are exactly what they sound like...cheese that’s been washed. The affineur (cheese master who works on the ripening process) bathes the cheese in a solution that ages and forms the thick orange skin and it results in a strong, meaty flavor. The solution varies and depends on what kind of flavor the cheesemaker is going for. Classics like Taleggio and Limburger are washed in a simple saline brine and though their smell is quite strong on the outside, their inner texture and taste is often smooth. Usually the longer they sit, the funkier they get (hello, Epoisse). Many artisan cheesemakers go wild with washed rinds and can lovingly cover their cheese with wine or beer. Now that’s a rind worth tasting.

Natural Rinds

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These are the rinds that grow with much less human interaction than bloomy or washed rinds. These kinds can be sharp and firm (Cabot’s Clothbound Cheddar) or creamy and crumbly (Gorwydd Caerphilly, Stilton). Their rind is formed simply by the natural process of aging and depends on the humidity and temperature of the cave in which they’re sitting. Air and a little bit of moisture often do the trick, though sometimes cheesecloth or leaves are wrapped around the wheel and mold tends to grow there—remove those before eating! These rinds are dry, earthy, and surprisingly complex.

Dry Rinds

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Hello Parmigiano Reggiano, my old friend. These firm, natural rinds are meant to keep mold out and simply let the cheese age into its hard, sharp perfection. These rinds aren’t the most palatable, but they make great additions to soup stock, stews, or slow-cooked pasta sauces to add some creaminess.

11 Unusual Cutting and Cheese Boards

Fred & Friends, Amazon
Fred & Friends, Amazon

Planning a wine and cheese party? Make sure what you're using to serve snacks is just as cute as your food is delicious.

1. Mouse Trap; $21

A cheese board shaped like a mouse trap

Fred & Friends, Amazon

At first glance, this item just looks like an oversized mouse trap. Ingeniously, the snapping part of the trap can be removed to reveal it's actually a cheese slicer. A chunk of cheese can be displayed and sliced on the 9-inch-long board—just don't invite any mice to the party.

Find it: Amazon

2. MOUSE BOARD; $30

A board shaped like a mouse hole with a mouse-shaped cheese cutter on top

Fred & Friends, Amazon

If a mouse trap is a little too macabre for your shindig, consider this adorable alternative. Assemble your cheeses on the 8-inch-long board and slice them up with a mouse-shaped knife that can be stored in the Tom and Jerry-esque mouse hole at the bottom.

Find it: Amazon

3. STATE SLATE; $20

Cheese and crackers arrayed on a slate cheese board

Bison Hill Stonecrafts, Amazon

Celebrate cheese from all over the United States with this patriotic slate. You can even grab a piece of chalk and write down the names of all the cheeses for hungry guests. Creator Bison Hill Stonecrafts will even personalize your board with a laser engraving, if you'd like.

Find it: Amazon

4. Log and Axe; $25

A cheese board shaped like a cut tree trunk

Fred & Friends, Amazon

Give your cheese a rustic presentation with this log and axe set-up. The solid beech cutting board is shaped like a log and comes with an axe-shaped knife to help you bring out your inner lumberjack.

Find it: Amazon

5. Mariner Wheel; $35

Invite all your sailor friends over for snacks with this nautical cheese board. When each of the four differently-shaped knives are placed into their respective holes in the board, the board looks like a ship's wheel.

Find it: UncommonGoods

6. Cheese Degrees; $20

A cutting board with a protractor design

Fred & Friends, Amazon

Make sure everyone gets an even amount of cheese with this obsessively precise cutting board. Whether you want perfect cubes or exactly portioned triangles, this cheese board can help ensure that everything is perfectly sliced.

Find it: Amazon

7. The States; $28

A cheese board in the shape of New York state

Amy Stringer-Mowat and Bill Mowat, UncommonGoods

Celebrate your home state with a bamboo cutting board created by New York-based woodworkers Amy Stringer-Mowat and Bill Mowat. You can see all the available state shapes in this PDF.

Find it: UncommonGoods

8. Voodoo Doll; $20

Pull out this voodoo doll-shaped board when you're feeling a little vindictive. You can hack away at meats and cheese and then store the knife appropriately in the wooden doll's back.

Find it: Overstock.com

9. Ampersand; $48

Delight your guests with some knowledge about where the ampersand comes from while using this board, which lets you fill a twisting line of crackers around three different cheeses.

Find it: UncommonGoods

10. Say Cheese; $19

A cheese board shaped like a smiling mouth

Fred & Friends, Amazon

Smile! It's cheese time. This mouth-shaped cheese board looks just as happy about the selection as you do. Underneath all the food, the board says "say cheese" in the center.

Find it: Amazon

11. The Obsessive Chef; $27

A cutting board with measurements on it

Fred & Friends, Amazon

This product comes with a series of lines to guide the cutter, including how to medium dice, small dice, brunoise, fine brunoise, batonnet, allumette, julienne, and fine julienne. The lines are burnished instead of printed, so they'll never get worn away.

Find it: Amazon or at one of the retailers below:

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

A version of this article first ran in 2017. It has been updated to reflect current availability.

A Massive Beef Recall Due to E. Coli Might Affect Your Memorial Day Meal Plans

iStock/Kameleon007
iStock/Kameleon007

If your Memorial Day weekend plans involve grilling meat, you're going to want to take some extra precautions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that 62,112 pounds of raw beef are being recalled due to possible contamination with E. coli bacteria, which causes food poisoning.

The meat originated with the Aurora Packing Company of North Aurora, Illinois on April 19. Aurora Packing is recalling the products, which have an EST. 788 number on the USDA mark of inspection found on packaging and were shipped to stores around the country. The meat was packaged in multiple cuts, including ribeye and briskets.

Escherichia coli, better known as E. coli, is bacteria that affects the gastrointestinal system, causing cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and other serious symptoms that can derail one's celebratory mood. If you think you've purchased any of the contaminated meat, it's recommended that you immediately discard it.

[h/t USA Today]

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