Celebrating Washed Rinds at Barossa Cheese!
Yay, one of my ultimate favourite styles of cheese….why, you may ask, well it’s all to do with complexity and the fragile balance between the sweetness of the milk and the nuances of attitude. These cheese are sticky and stinky with attitude. Also known as surface ripened and smear ripened, washed rind styles develop a pungency of complexity that is like no other. Don’t get me wrong, they can be reminiscent of a barnyard as their smells emanates across a room, but I love them.
So how are these little beauties made? The base cheese for washed rinds is made in a very similar way to whitemould cheese but once the cheese is brined and transferred to the maturation cave, this is where the changes begin. Each cheese is delicately scrubbed with a special solution that contains a variety of elements depending on the cheesemakers preference. For example, the solution can contain a mixture of water, salt, alcohol, yeast cultures, herbs and spices, and sometimes annatto which is an orange colouring (generally with the large scale industrial producers).
THE ALL IMPORTANT RIND
The most important element of the solution is the yeast cultures. These are very specific to washed rinds styles and are called Brevibacterium linens (or Brevi linens for short). The Brevi linens grow on the surface of the rind. This not only keeps the cheese moist but helps to create another spectrum of flavour as the sticky, tacky rind develops on the cheese and starts to produce the fatty acids that create the smelly aromas.
The cheese is washed on a regular basis depending on the moisture content of the cheese and the humidity in the room. The more it’s washed, the stronger the community of yeast and bacteria on the surface, and therefore the stronger the cheese. When you open a packet of washed rind cheese, the colour of the rind is a good indicator of the strength and ripeness of the product. When young, the cheese displays mild yeasty aromas like that of a sourdough starter culture. At this stage the rind can be pinkish in colour, and the interior of the cheese tends to be mild and milky. The more orangey brown the colour of the rind, the stronger the overall flavour of the cheese. Bear in mind, that the colouring varies depending on the washing solution used and the growth of the bacteria.
The growth of the culture is highly dependent on moisture. If the surface of the cheese is too dry, the yeast cultures can’t grow and vis-versa if the cheese is too wet, the cultures will develop too quickly and produce intense flavours that I often refer to as being lanoline-like. The yeast needs perfect moisture, pH and temperature for optimum controlled growth and therefore balanced flavour in the cheese.
The other super special behaviour with washed rind styles is their unique ability to thrive with their own special microflora blend. Put simply, they absorb and grow the microflora that occurs naturally in a cheesemaking house. Hence why each washed rind cheese from different producers, has its own unique characters
STORAGE Washed rind cheese likes a humid atmosphere so it’s better to keep it in the original packaging and in the vegetable compartment of your fridge.
TYPES OF CHEESE in this category include Reblochon, Epoisses, Mont D’Or and Taleggio.
Talk next month, Victoria.