What this is: Breaking down the differences between cheese rinds, how they are formed and if you can eat them or not!
Who it’s for: Anyone who’s ever wondered if they’re supposed to eat the rind.
So, can you eat the rind? The answer is YES! At, least, a lot of the time. But you also don’t have to! Allow us to elaborate…
EDIBLE VS INEDIBLE RINDS
Many cheeses have rinds that form naturally during the aging process to protect the cheese from the elements while it is aging. The rind, then, is made up of the cheese itself that has been transformed due to yeasts, molds, and humidity—Brie would fall into this category. We call these “natural rinds”, and not only are they edible, but they often add depth of flavor, texture and beautiful tasting notes to the cheese itself.
However, just because you can eat something, doesn’t mean you have to! Rinds usually are more strongly flavored than the “paste” (i.e. the inside of the cheese), and not everyone likes those stronger flavors, and that’s ok! Ultimately whether or not you eat the rind is really a matter of personal preference, and there is no right or wrong when it comes to what makes you happy when eating your cheese.
We feel compelled to say that, even though you don’t have to eat the rind, there’s still a correct way to not eat the rind. If you’re at a party and there’s a luscious Brie-style wheel on the cheese board and you only have eyes for that creamy stuff on the inside, then here’s what you do: you slice yourself a wedge (rind and all), transfer it on to your own plate, and then cut off the rind from there and only eat the paste. Do not, for the love of god, savagely hollow out the creamy inside of a cheese, leaving nothing but the sad, limp rind behind for everyone else.
Inedible rinds are the ones that include rinds that are made of things that you wouldn’t eat in your normal life anyway, like wax! You know that bright red wax on the outside of your favorite gouda? Not edible. Or the waxed Wilde Weide from Holland, pictured right. That rind on your Parmigiano Reggiano? Although that is naturally formed and technically edible (as in: technically you could eat it and you’d be fine), it is far too hard to bite into (and if you try, you will soon see the error of your ways). Other less obvious examples of cheeses with inedible rinds are cheeses that age in leaves or in cloth, such as old English-style cheddars.
A last note is that not all cheeses have rinds. Fresh cheeses, such as mozzarella or a goat cheese log, are unaged and thus haven’t had time to develop rinds (these are the ones in our milky&mild and bright&fresh categories). Block cheddars and some blues also don’t have rinds.
The type of natural rind that develops on the rest of cheeses is all based on the bacteria used to age the cheese and the amount of time the cheese is aged. Generally cheeses with natural rinds can be eaten, though the longer a cheese is aged, the harder and less nice-to-eat that natural rind becomes.
But, young, natural rinds are the kind you can definitely eat, like those beautiful white fluffy rinds on the outside of soft cheeses (think: Brie, or Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche, pictured left). These are known as “soft-ripened” or “bloomy” cheeses (found in our bloomy&brainy category), and are made with a certain type of mold and yeast that results in the unique rind texture that encourages the aging of the cheese. These cheeses should be consumed within a few weeks or months after production (depending on the cheese). Bloomy rinds can taste milky, grassy and earthy and can provide a welcomed contrast to the buttery, creamy and often gooey center.
Another style of rind are those that are flavored in a unique ingredient to complement the paste of the cheese. Often cheeses will be rolled and aged in flowers (like Alp Blossom, pictured right), herbs, spices, and even wine or beer. One of our favorites is Beehive Cheese’s Barely Buzzed, an aged cheddar rubbed with finely ground espresso (it sounds weird but it works, trust us.) You can usually eat flavored rinds, and we encourage you to at least try them!
Cheeses with “washed rinds” have been regularly brushed (or “washed”) in either a brine, or certain types of wines, beers, ciders or liquors. The result is often a sticky, orangey and tacky rind that has a distinct aroma . The ones fall into our creamy&funky category because, well, they can have a real funk to them. But importantly: you can absolutely eat these rinds! In fact they often smell stronger than they actually taste. The salt water mix draws out the naturally savory flavor of the cheese and results in a bold and delicious bite. Notable examples include Italian Taleggio and French Époisses (pictured). Pro tip: add thinly sliced salami, pickles and a crusty baguette to take the washed rind experience to the next level.
We recommend trying the rind on all of these style cheeses the next time you get a chance. Who knows? You may discover your new favorite cheese.
There are many different types of rinds, some of which you can’t eat (wax) and some of which you can. If you enjoy the rinds on Brie, swiss cheeses and washed rinds, by all means eat them, but there is no shame in leaving the rind behind, to each their own!
If you have never indulged in a soft creamy Brie-style cheese with the rind, now’s the time. Have a nice glass of bubbles poured to congratulate yourself on trying something new today (it will pair perfectly with the cheese, too).
Click the icons below to download a pdf of this lesson, along with two handouts: one about how cheese is made, and a second with our system for categorizing cheeses and pairings.