Mold: Friend and Foe

Cambozola mold

Mold plays an integral role in the making of many types of cheeses, but occasionally mold can make an unwelcome appearance on your favorite wedge. Whether or not the cheese is still safe to eat depends on the type of cheese (and extent of the mold growth). The following is a little guide to help you determine what to keep, what to cut, and what to chuck.

Soft cheeses like ricotta, cottage cheese, and chèvre, which are young cheeses with high moisture content, should never show mold or discoloration of any kind. If they do, toss them (also a quick whiff will be an undeniable—though perhaps risky—cue).

Cheeses with bloomy rinds, such as Brie and Camembert, are made by the application of the mold Penicillium camemberti, either to the surface or mixed into the curd. In cheeses like CAMBOZOLA, the mold is mixed into the curd and therefore naturally grows on the cut surface once it is exposed to air. Since it is the same mold found on the rind, it is edible, but if you don’t like its appearance, simply cut off the offending edge. If, however, the new growth is different in color, odor, or texture than the mold of the rind, the cheese has likely been contaminated, and your bloomy rind cheese is blooming anew. Mold on these types of cheeses can penetrate the interior paste, so if you are ever in doubt, best to chuck it out.

Blue cheeses are made by the introduction of the mold Penicillium roqueforti to the interior of the curd. Blue cheeses typically have areas of blue, green, or gray throughout the paste. But if you find off colors, such as yellow, orange, or pink, or excess moisture, it’s bye-bye to the blues.

Washed rind cheeses, such as Limburger, are made using bacteria (Brevibacterium linens). They are washed in brine during the curing process, and naturally develop a moist, orangish or pinkish rind. The brine solution inhibits mold growth and promotes the growth of B. linens. These types of cheeses should not show mold growth and should remain moist, but not wet. If you notice a change, you know your washed rind cheese has taken a dive.

Hard, aged cheeses, such as Gruyère or Parmigiano Reggiano, which have low moisture content, can withstand most mold growth. Molds that develop on the surface of these cheeses can’t penetrate deeply into the interior of the cheese. So just cut off the offending edge (about an inch around the area of growth), and save the cheese.

Remember the best way to prevent unwanted mold growth is to store cheese properly and keep your tools clean. Wrap cheeses separately when storing, use different knives for different cheeses, and of course—and this should be an easy one to follow—enjoy your cheese sooner rather