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Should I eat the rinds of my cheeses?

Before answering this common question, let’s start with the basics: What is a rind?

A rind is a natural shell that forms on a cheese during the cheesemaking process. Its prime role is to protect the cheese’s interior and allow it to ripen and develop, ultimately enriching its final flavor. But though these rinds are edible - as opposed to other coverings, such as wax and cloth - another question arises: Do you want to eat it?

Before you make the call, here’s a quick "inducation."

The Bloomy Rind

Bloomy rinds are creamy, white and soft, sometimes even fuzzy. Like with Ile de France Brie, St. Andre or Supreme -typically, mould spoors help transform the curds, then the cheese are allowed to ripen in a humidified room. During this affinage the mold grows, or blooms, to form the rind.
The Washed Rind

Washed rinds, like those on Chaumes, Pont l’Eveque and St. Albray, have noticeably orange or reddish hues. The color comes from a process of brining or sometimes swabbing the cheese with alcohol to create a damp environment for edible mold to grow. Washed rind cheeses are often the most aromatic, and their flavors are generally stronger and saltier than unwashed varieties.

How do you know which rind is for you?

For fromages like Emmental and Comté, there’s nothing to consider because the rind is not edible, but for others, it’s all a matter of perspective. Specifically, flavor and texture aspects, as each will vary from cheese to cheese, person to person, based on the situation. For instance, pairing condiments like jam, honey or chutney with Brie will change the elements of the experience, ultimately altering the taste of the cheese.

Etiquette and experts agree that if you’re faced with a rinded cheese in a social setting, cut a wedge that includes an equal share of the rind. Once it’s on your plate, trim off the rind if you’d like. It’s impolite, however, to cut around the rind on the cheese platter itself. We’ve all seen it happen though, even at the most sophisticated soirees - as the cheese platter becomes a pileup of discarded rinds.

Eating the rind - well, that’s another controversy all together. If you’re the adventurous type, go ahead and try it. If you’d rather not, politely pass. Should someone call you unsophisticated in doing so, just tell them that renowned French cheese expert Pierre Androuet doesn’t believe in eating rinds, and neither do you. The choice is all yours.


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