Cheese Rinds: When To Eat Them and When To Leave Them On The Board
Surely you've asked the question while eating funky cheeses with friends. "Are we supposed to eat the rind or not?" Unless you're surrounded by a bunch of cheese nerds, the answers that come back likely have as many holes as a cartoonish slice of Swiss.
Maybe don't eat this one.
Even with the mild rind of a brie cheese you've undoubtedly encountered a few friends who carefully cut their way around the snowy white outer layer to get at the good stuff inside, while others almost savor the rind. And as the exteriors get more and more robust, the rind lovers slowly lose their enthusiasm for the taste of mold and time.
So how do you really know if you should be eating the stuff? Paula Lambert, the woman behind the Mozzarella Co. in Deep Ellum answers simply. "It depends on if you like the way it tastes." That ubiquitous brie, for instance, is encased by a rind of penicillium bacteria, which imparts a soft, tender rind that tastes a bit like mushrooms. Skip the rind on one of these carefully aged cheese and you'll be missing on the best part.
Other rinds however, are a little less palatable
"Some rinds are dusty gray and brown," Lambert points out. " You probably won't like the way it tastes. She describes the flavor of the rinds on well-aged cheeses as very unpleasant, and the texture? "It's more like cardboard."
The rind on this Winnemere can be a challenge. Should you eat it? Totally up to you.
Still the rinds are perfectly safe to eat, so if you're a masochist and you like the flavor, as well as the act of digging gunk out of your molars, by all means, dig in!
There are of course a few rinds you never want to eat. Cloth, paper and wax materials aren't poisonous, but they aren't food or even a true rind, either. Lambert told the story of a customer who called her store asking for help with a soup that had gone haywire. The woman had watched Rachel Ray, who said adding the rinds from cheeses to a broth is a great way to enhance a soup.
This is absolutely true if you have a Ziploc bag full of parmigiano reggiano ends in your fridge, but this woman was hanging onto the waxy exteriors of Gouda and Edam. What she thought was a true rind resulted in a molten layer of wax that floated on the top of her stockpot -- not exactly good eats.
Still Lambert reminded me that, while not appetizing, the material was food grade wax, and eating it was not dangerous in any way. The point re-enforces the notion that the best way to determine whether or not you should eat a rind is simply to taste a little.
Since taste is so subjective I headed back to Oak Lawn's favorite cheese shop to corner Rich Rogers and get a better handle on the specifics. We came up with a list of cheeses you should definitely eat enthusiastically, rinds your should eat enthusiastically if you enjoy, and rinds that really have no business in your belly.
First, let's look at the good.