Washed Rind Cheese
Originating from the abbeys of northern France, washed rind was made famous by the monks who created it. The meaty flavour of the cheese was a deliberate attempt to create the flavour of meat during long periods of fasting when meat was not permitted.
The monks discovered that the cheese developed a particularly moist and supple texture if the rind was washed regularly as it ripened. Washed rind cheese features in several categories.
They are mostly known as surface ripened, semi-soft cheeses distinguished by their aroma and a bright red/orange rind. Some semi-hard cheeses such as tilsit, gruyére and raclette also have their rinds rubbed during the maturation process to promote the creation of a crusty rind and to enhance their flavour. In recent years, Australian cheesemakers have experimented more with different style of soft and firm washed rind cheeses as Australian palettes become more sophisticated and interested in trying new and complex flavours.
Washed rind cheeses are among the world's strongest smelling cheeses.
The cheese is made as soft ripened cheese until it is placed in a temperature and humidity controlled room. At this point, its surface is washed with a brine solution containing a special bacteria, Brevibacterium Linens (also known as Brevy or B linens) to give the rind its red/orange colour.
Yeasts are often added to the mix. Some styles of washed rind cheese have white mould spores added to the milk to create a rind that is not as sticky or pungent as other cheeses in the category.
The duration and frequency of this washing determines the depth of the rind's colour and facilitates the ripening of the cheese. The more active the bacteria and mould on the rind, the more flavoursome the cheese. And, the riper the cheese, the stronger the smell! Round, rectangular or square in shape and with its distinctive orange rind, washed rind cheese can vary from soft to firm, depending on the way it has been made.
This cheese has a robust often brassica-like aroma with an umami packed earthy flavour that is usually quite savoury. Some washed rind cheeses have a more yeasty flavour, reminiscent of Vegemite, while others are sweet and nutty. Just remember, the smell is usually much stronger than the flavour, so don’t be scared off by the aroma of the cheese!
Selection and storage
- If the cheese has no smell, it is generally not ripe.
- Store the cheese in its original wrapper or in waxed or greaseproof paper and then loosely in plastic wrap or foil.
- Keep well covered in the refrigerator as its strong aroma may affect other produce.
- Freezing is not recommended.
Allow a minimum of half an hour at room temperature prior to serving.
As the flavour of the cheese is quite complex, accompany simply with pear or apple and toasted fruit bread.
Robust herbs like rosemary and thyme work well with washed rinds.
Sweet accompaniments balance out the intense savoury notes of the cheese, try dessert figs, raisins or honey.
For more recipes with washed rind cheeses, visit The Dairy Kitchen