Cheese 101

Cheese 101: Moldy Cheese

A piece of Comte, with our friends white, green, and yellow mold

In a previous Cheese 101 post, I talked about how you can tell if a cheese has gone bad.  Generally, we think that if something is growing mold, even the tiniest bit, that it has gone bad and discard it.  For cheese however, this is not the case.  Due to the enzymes found in cheese, it is considered a living, breathing food, and mold is bound to form on the surface.  So what’s “good” mold and what’s “bad” mold?  What’s safe to eat?  How do you get rid of it? 

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Since I started working with cheese a year and a half ago, I’ve come across many different types of molds on my cheeses:

  • Black or white furry mold
  • Red, orange, or pink mold
  • Grey mold
  • Brown mold
  • Green or blue mold (NOT the bleu cheese kind)
  • White mold

Whether a mold is good or unwanted depends on a few factors–mainly the type of cheese and how that cheese is manufactured.  Bloomy rind cheeses are bound to have a white mold because the rind itself is a mold called Penicillium candidum.  Similarly, a blue/green mold, called Penicillium roqueforti, is purposely put in blue-veined cheeses such as Roquefort and Stilton.  Many washed rind cheeses purposely have a reddish-orange rind from the washing and aging processes.

However, if you’ve got yourself some blue, green, grey or white mold growing on a cheese that doesn’t use mold in the cheese making process, you’ll want to either remove it or discard it.  These types of molds have “tentacles” that try to grow beneath the surface of your cheese.  Depending on how hard the cheese is determines how you should go about saving it.

If you find your cheese has started to grow fur (and I mean, rivals your cat’s fur), slimy pink or red, slimy orange or yellow, or black mold, you should discard it, regardless of what type of cheese it is.  These types of mold can be harmful, and seeing as we don’t all have laboratories in our homes to test these molds, it would be better to simply not risk reaping havoc on your digestive system.

How do I get rid of it?  And is it safe to eat afterwards?

The first part is easy.  To get rid of mold on a harder cheese, you’ll want to either take a vegetable brush dipped in white vinegar and gently scrub off the mold, or trim anywhere from 1/4″ – 1″ (depending on how thick the mold is) of the moldy area away from the cheese.  If beneath that trimmed/scrubbed area is clean and exhibits no other signs of spoilage, you should be good.  The same goes for a cheese that is on the semi-firm side.  Soft cheeses (bloomy rinds, fresh cheeses) which grow these molds should be discarded as there is a chance that it has spread through the paste.  Any cheese that is super fresh (such as cream cheeses), grated, or pre-sliced should be discarded also at the first signs of mold, regardless of color.

Proceed with caution when determining if a moldy soft cheese is spoiled, as molds may cause digestive problems to some people.

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