What is washed rind cheese?
Monks from Northern France created washed rind cheese. They discovered that washing the rind while the cheese ripened, created a moist and supple texture.
Washed rind has several soft and hard variants. It is made as soft ripened cheese before it's placed in a humidity and temperature controlled room for maturation and washing.
Washed rind cheeses are mostly surface ripened, semi-soft cheeses known for their strong aroma.
The cheese is made as soft ripened cheese until it is placed in a temperature and humidity controlled room. The surface is washed with a brine solution containing a bacteria called Brevibacterium Linens (or Brevy or B linens). This solution gives the rind a distinct red/orange colour. Yeasts are often added to the mix. Some styles of washed rind cheese have white mould spores added to the milk to create a rind that is not as sticky or pungent as other cheeses in the category.
The duration and frequency of washing determines the depth of the rind's colour and facilitates the ripening of the cheese.
Characteristics of washed rind cheese
- Moist texture
- A distinct crusty red/orange rind
- An earthy, usually savoury flavour - it can also be yeasty (similar to Vegemite), meaty or sweet and nutty
- A strong smell
When washed rind smells strong, it means it's ripe and ready to eat. The flavour is often more subtle than the strong smell.
Storing and selection of washed rind cheese
- Store the cheese in its original wrapper or in waxed or greaseproof paper and then loosely in plastic wrap or foil
- Keep well covered in the refrigerator as its strong aroma may affect other produce
- Freezing is not recommended.
Other semi-hard cheeses such as tilsit, gruyére and raclette have their rinds washed and rubbed to enhance flavour and create a crusty rind.
Australian cheesemakers continue to experiment with different styles of soft and firm washed rind cheeses, as Australian palates become more complex.