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Cheeses and their mold

Can I eat the cheese if it has a bit of mold on it?

That will depend on the type of cheese.

Will I look less of an expert if I cut off the crust of the cheese in front of my friends or someone I want to impress?

No. But if your wish is to impress with your cheese knowledge, keep reading this post.

Illustration of cheeses with mold pieces

If roquefort were lethal, we would already have lost half of the French population. If mold has grown on a cheese that doesn’t normally have it, such as a hard type of cheese, remove it from the surface with a knife and observe until where it has spread in order to remove the affected part as well as its surroundings. What would be worrying is if a cheese that was sold to you as artisan doesn’t develop mold over time. 

Another question we often hear is if the crust of the cheese can be eaten or not. The short and long answer to this question is: if your cheese has a natural crust, yes. Whether you enjoy it more or less is a different thing, but the cheese crust is… (drum roll): cheese! The crust is merely the external part of the cheese that has dried out, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the ripening time. On this external part, microorganisms grow and directly or indirectly give the cheese its nuances. These microorganisms are mainly the molds that naturally grow and inoculate during the process. Cheeses such as brie or camembert have a crust covered with mold. If this couldn’t be eaten, we would have lost the other half of the French population.  

Illustration of mouldy camembert, manchego and roquefort cheese pieces

The crust that should not be eaten, however, is the one on industrial cheeses. Even if they are produced according to the strictest food regulations, they still contain paraffin or colorants. Another important point to consider before deciding if to eat the crust or not is knowing where this crust has previously been. If you buy or receive a cheese directly from the farmer, it isn’t the same as if this cheese had been kept on a shop counter or diverse surfaces. In any case, this is each one’s decision according to their personal standards. 

But, what exactly is mold anyway? Mold consists of filamentous fungi that grow in warm and moist environments. The spores in which they spread allow them to survive in unfavourable conditions. These spores are present in the environment and, when they find favourable conditions, initiate the formation of mold. The Penicillium roqueforti and Penicillium camemberti molds are responsible for the two cheeses named after them. The Geotrichum candidum mold is partly responsible for the white crust on some cheeses such as camembert

I ordered a natural cheese and it arrived covered with mold after a few days in transit, why?

During the aging process, this cheese is brushed as to homogeneously spread the mold formation and to reduce its amount. Once the cheese has left its cave and is on its way to your home, no one is brushing it so it is normal that it arrives a little scruffy. At this point, you may just brush it slightly with a cloth to remove the excess mold and prepare to enjoy it. 

In general, it is recommended to consume the mold on cheeses that naturally have it in their composition, and to remove it from cheeses that don’t. In other words: when it comes to roquefort, you may eat everything minus the label, but on a manchego cheese, cut off the mold before enjoying it. In case of doubt, it is better to remove the affected part since some molds can give the cheese a bad taste or even make you spend a bad evening.

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