One question always comes up when discussing cheese. “Do you eat the rind?”
If it is a natural rind that developed as part of the aging process (like the one on the Rogue River Caveman Blue above), you can eat it. If it is an artificial coating like wax, you shouldn’t eat it. If it's a wrapping like the the grape leaves that Rogue River uses to wrap its award winning rogue River Blue, you can unwrap it, but I would recommend enjoying the flavor the wrapper has added to the cheese it abutted.
Cheeses may also be rubbed with something delicious and that may tempt you to taste the rind. The Vella Dry Jack above is rubbed with a mixture of oil, pepper, and unsweetened cocoa during the aging process.
One of the best suggestions I’ve heard over the years was in the The Murray's Cheese Handbook. “If you're not sure eat your cheese from the inside out. The flavors will be stronger the closer you get to the rind, and if you don't like the paste just beneath the rind, you probably won't like the rind itself.”
This is a great suggestion for the Twig Farm Mixed Drum above. In the photo you can see how the cheese texture and look changes from inside out. Ed would cut off all the rind. That's how he enjoys it. I will taste it before I decide. Sometimes it's too funky but other times it's like getting a second cheese flavor as a bonus for tasting the rind with some of your bites.
I may wash the rind on a stinky washed rind cheese (like the Brebirousse d'Argental Petit: Soft Ripe Sheep's Milk Cheese above) before I try to eat it.
For me, it depends on the type of rind and the condition of the cheese. I’ll normally eat the rind on Brie, Camembert, and a soft bloomy goat cheese like the Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor in the photo above. But, I only buy these cheeses when they are perfectly ripe and I use them right away.
Most of the time, I don’t eat the hard, crusty rinds on long-aged cheeses like Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. Tasting the rind and eating the cheese all the way to the rind can be one more way to explore cheese.
What's on your Cheese shopping list? Here are some great books about cheese. These make wonderful gifts for a cheese lover. And, when you shop Amazon from here, they put some coins in our tip jar.
Words: Penny Cherubino
Photography: © 2008-2014 Penny & Ed Cherubino, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar photo courtesy of Cabot Cheese.