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Momentary Freak-Out: Mold Blooms on Cheese

Momentary Freak-Out: Mold Blooms on Cheese
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  • Momentary Freak-Out: Mold Blooms on Cheese

    Post #1 - April 27th, 2007, 10:29 am
    Post #1 - April 27th, 2007, 10:29 am Post #1 - April 27th, 2007, 10:29 am
    Momentary Freak-Out: Mold Blooms on Cheese

    I know most mold on cheese is just fine, but when I brought home a round of Caprino Castagno from Fox & Obel, I was surprised to see what seemed like alien blooms on the soft, almost watery surface. And the smell of the cheese was... intense.

    Image

    The mold and the smell, in addition to a brown ooze coming off the bottom of the packaged, momentarily freaked me out.

    I emailed a pic to Lydia Burns, a fromager at Fox & Obel, and she responded that there was nothing to fear. Blue molds like this are quite common on softer, moister cheeses (especially those wrapped in leaves, as this one is), and she added “Only the finest, richest cheeses promote the growth of good molds… (however) the red molds and also black molds are hazardous because they are foreign molds that are contaminants, and are only introduced from outside sources.”

    This was, incidentally, a fabulous cheese – creamy, dense and with a nose- and mouth-shaking intensity that I got used to after the first bite and started to really like (so much so that The Wife and I put a big dent in a 7 oz round).

    And the brown ooze? Just the chestnut leaves letting off a little water.

    Freak-out averted.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #2 - April 27th, 2007, 1:40 pm
    Post #2 - April 27th, 2007, 1:40 pm Post #2 - April 27th, 2007, 1:40 pm
    Yeah, don't judge a cheese by it's fuzz. As long as it doesn't smell like ammonia, I'll eat it. I was obsessed with Bittersweete Plantation's Fleur-de-Lis triple creme cheese for a while, but the last time I picked some up at The Cheese Stands Alone, it was cheese soup when I cut it open. And I ate it with a spoon.
  • Post #3 - April 27th, 2007, 1:45 pm
    Post #3 - April 27th, 2007, 1:45 pm Post #3 - April 27th, 2007, 1:45 pm
    David Hammond wrote:she added “Only the finest, richest cheeses promote the growth of good molds…
    Yeah, right. That is why I have the same blue/white mold growing on some Dominick's brand cheese in my refrigerator.
  • Post #4 - April 27th, 2007, 2:24 pm
    Post #4 - April 27th, 2007, 2:24 pm Post #4 - April 27th, 2007, 2:24 pm
    d4v3 wrote:
    David Hammond wrote:she added “Only the finest, richest cheeses promote the growth of good molds…
    Yeah, right. That is why I have the same blue/white mold growing on some Dominick's brand cheese in my refrigerator.


    d4v3, you must have stumbled upon Dominick's Super Reserve Heptuple-Cream cheese, created from the milk of 3rd-generation virgin cross-bred alpaca and goat! Don't you know, only the super elite cheese-cognoscenti would have both your good fortune and the nose (and eyes) to recognize this treasure. :D

    Perhaps you could offer it to Lydia Burns, with the appropriate F&O markup, of course...



    -sherman
  • Post #5 - April 27th, 2007, 2:30 pm
    Post #5 - April 27th, 2007, 2:30 pm Post #5 - April 27th, 2007, 2:30 pm
    Sherman wrote:
    d4v3 wrote:
    David Hammond wrote:she added “Only the finest, richest cheeses promote the growth of good molds…
    Yeah, right. That is why I have the same blue/white mold growing on some Dominick's brand cheese in my refrigerator.


    d4v3, you must have stumbled upon Dominick's Super Reserve Heptuple-Cream cheese, created from the milk of 3rd-generation virgin cross-bred alpaca and goat! Don't you know, only the super elite cheese-cognoscenti would have both your good fortune and the nose (and eyes) to recognize this treasure. :D

    Perhaps you could offer it to Lydia Burns, with the appropriate F&O markup, of course...

    -sherman


    Hey, lay off Lydia. :x She's a good kid and I'm sure she was pushing the envelope of plausibility just a little to assuage any residual concerns that this old fart might have had about her cheese...and like I said, this was an exceptional fromage. :)
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #6 - April 27th, 2007, 3:14 pm
    Post #6 - April 27th, 2007, 3:14 pm Post #6 - April 27th, 2007, 3:14 pm
    I'll step in to defend the honor of F&O's cheese counter too, if need be. Yes, they're expensive, we all know that. But I've come to know Suzanne over the years, who runs the cheese department (or at least did the last time we spoke, which was a while back), and her knowledge is formidable. On top of which, she has the kind of enthusiasm/obsession for cheese that is considered honorable here and creepy anywhere else.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #7 - April 27th, 2007, 3:31 pm
    Post #7 - April 27th, 2007, 3:31 pm Post #7 - April 27th, 2007, 3:31 pm
    Sorry, I wasn't trying to cast aspersions on anybody or their wares. Her statement just struck me as a bit of pseudo-scientific salesmanship. I am sure if I introduced the same mold to a $5/lb cheese, it would grow just as happily. Actually, I also subscribe to the theory that mold on a $25/lb Camembert is good whereas mold on $5/lb Monterey Jack is bad. Aside from the spores' French pedigree, I wonder if there really is much of a difference. Any mycologists want to weigh in?
  • Post #8 - April 27th, 2007, 3:42 pm
    Post #8 - April 27th, 2007, 3:42 pm Post #8 - April 27th, 2007, 3:42 pm
    It's funny, though, how good cheese goes bad sometimes.

    I've had some feta sit in my fridge for a couple of months, small chunks crumbled off a couple times week for salad or sandwiches. I had another feta that within a week had turned yellowish and accumulated an odor that suggested that the dog had climbed to the top shelf of the fridge and lifted her leg on it.

    The rule of thumb I'd always been taught is that softer cheeses get disposed when there's colored mold on them, and hard cheeses need an amputation 1" above the affected area... which can mean the whole thing.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #9 - April 27th, 2007, 4:09 pm
    Post #9 - April 27th, 2007, 4:09 pm Post #9 - April 27th, 2007, 4:09 pm
    Hi,

    I wouldn't eat it. Or put another way: do you eat moldy bread?

    There is a difference between intentionally introduced fungi/molds and those who popped up from the atmosphere. You have no idea what you may be consuming.

    A former employee told me of an occasion when he was at a business meal. There was blue cheese served, which tasted "off" to him. He got itchy lesions all over his body that sent him to the hospital. His regular physician was out of town, the doctors involved sent him through a battery of tests with no conclusive answer. His doctor recognized the problem in a flash: hives and very big hives. It was very likely the blue cheese had a secondary non-introduced mold that caused this problem.

    A medical mycologist used to be an active member of mushroom club before retiring. He had many anecdotes on problems people had from ingesting moldy foods.

    If you are not willing to eat moldy bread, then you shouldn't be inclined to eat non-introduced moldy cheese. Remember the artisinal cheese film? The guy who was creating his own fermentation/molds, they were later tested to have been potentially lethal?

    I would return it and get my money back. If they disagree, then toss it away and never regret the action.

    ***

    U of I Extension has recommended if there is a mold on soft cheese, like you have, then toss the whole things away. Mycellium could have threaded its way all around this cheese.

    They take a different approach to hard cheeses like cheddar: cut away one inch from the mold. The remaining area is ok, because the hardness keeps the mycellium from getting very far.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #10 - April 27th, 2007, 6:47 pm
    Post #10 - April 27th, 2007, 6:47 pm Post #10 - April 27th, 2007, 6:47 pm
    crrush wrote:Yeah, don't judge a cheese by it's fuzz. As long as it doesn't smell like ammonia,

    Crrush,

    Last year I had a round of Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk that had a pronounced ammonia smell, no doubt in my mind it had turned. Someone, I was at a BBQ, suggested a short soak/wash in heavy salt water solution as a way to, possibly, salvage the cheese. Salt water helped, but it was still too far gone for me. Mike Sula (m'th'su) ate a portion of the cheese with no ill effects, but I hear bourbon is a strong antibacterial. ;)

    I should note the Red Hook's state of affairs was neither the fault of the maker or cheese monger. The round had been purchased at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and was in and out of refrigeration twice.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #11 - April 30th, 2007, 8:53 am
    Post #11 - April 30th, 2007, 8:53 am Post #11 - April 30th, 2007, 8:53 am
    David Hammond wrote:Hey, lay off Lydia. :x She's a good kid and I'm sure she was pushing the envelope of plausibility just a little to assuage any residual concerns that this old fart might have had about her cheese...and like I said, this was an exceptional fromage. :)


    Sorry, Dave. I didn't intend to pick on Lydia specifically; I just don't cotton to pseudo-scientific lines being used for in the name of salesmanship.

    That said, Cathy2 makes a VERY good point. There's a pretty substantial difference between consuming a product that has molded or fermented as part of the production process, and consuming a product that has decided to take on a life of its own within the confines of your icebox.


    -sherman
  • Post #12 - April 30th, 2007, 8:58 am
    Post #12 - April 30th, 2007, 8:58 am Post #12 - April 30th, 2007, 8:58 am
    Sherman wrote:That said, Cathy2 makes a VERY good point. There's a pretty substantial difference between consuming a product that has molded or fermented as part of the production process, and consuming a product that has decided to take on a life of its own within the confines of your icebox.
    -sherman


    Yes, I agree. C2 sat me down on Saturday and explained (again) why it's probably a bad idea to eat soft cheese that contains molds not intentionally introduced to the product. I'm probably going to pitch the rest of this cheese...though what I ate was really good and I believe the risk of illness is remote (but, you know, why take any risk at all?).
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #13 - April 30th, 2007, 9:15 am
    Post #13 - April 30th, 2007, 9:15 am Post #13 - April 30th, 2007, 9:15 am
    G Wiv wrote:Mike Sula (m'th'su) ate a portion of the cheese with no ill effects

    If memory serves, I was merely the guinea pig. The cheese was finished off in short order by a half dozen or so others.
  • Post #14 - April 30th, 2007, 2:55 pm
    Post #14 - April 30th, 2007, 2:55 pm Post #14 - April 30th, 2007, 2:55 pm
    I think that when it comes to unintentional mold on cheese, and whether it is safe to eat, moderation is key. There are a lot of things that could kill us if we ingested too much,(i guess technically water could), but smaller amounts can be tolerated by healthy adults. Whether e-coli, salmonella, or bizarre cheese molds, I think that we are ok being only careful, not completely paranoid. While it might be FDA advised to cut a full inch off the outside of a hard, moldy cheese, taking off the outer 1/4 inch will eliminate 99% of the little guys, and our stomach acids (or the bourbon) will deal with the rest. Similarly if I cut off the part of a nice ripened cheese that has strange mold, the rest will probably not hurt me. That said, there are times that soft cheeses are so far gone that all the trimming in the world wont make them palatable, and red and yellow molds scare me a lot more than white and blue ones do. I dont know if ammonia odors are natures way of warning us, but if I smell them in cheese (or fish, or really anything other than floor cleaner), I automatically return or dump the whole thing.

    -Will
  • Post #15 - April 30th, 2007, 3:03 pm
    Post #15 - April 30th, 2007, 3:03 pm Post #15 - April 30th, 2007, 3:03 pm
    WillG wrote:Similarly if I cut off the part of a nice ripened cheese that has strange mold, the rest will probably not hurt me.


    C2's point, though,is that in soft cheese, the mold threads can be just about invisible to the naked eye, so even if you cut off the hunk with the visible mold, there may be smaller threads of mold in the rest of the cheese. Still, in those quantities, as you say, they may be pretty much harmless.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #16 - April 30th, 2007, 3:40 pm
    Post #16 - April 30th, 2007, 3:40 pm Post #16 - April 30th, 2007, 3:40 pm
    HI,

    While you might just get a little sick from eating spontaneous growing mold, you can also become a medical case study.

    From eating moldy rice cakes, one man experienced his 'connective tissue' between dead cells and live cells dissolve. This caused his skin to peel off like a sunburn. It didn't stop there, it cause his esophagus lining, intestinal track lining and all sorts of beneficial dead cells to slough off, too. This temporary inconvenience landed him in a hospital for several days as well as one for the books.

    Noted mycologist Tom Volk made the following comments, which would apply as well to moldy cheese and bread:

    According to some people who have eaten the death angels (and died), they have a rather good taste, so you can't trust your taste buds in picking poisonous from edible mushrooms. However, I do not recommend tasting it!!!!! If you plan on eating any mushroom you must be absolutely sure of the genus and species identification. A meal, no matter how delicious, is not worth the price of your life.


    Be careful!

    [Edit: changed moldy bread to moldy rice cakes]
    Last edited by Cathy2 on May 1st, 2007, 5:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #17 - May 1st, 2007, 7:51 am
    Post #17 - May 1st, 2007, 7:51 am Post #17 - May 1st, 2007, 7:51 am
    Is it possible to be a little less alarmist, reactionary, and otherwise ominous?

    A little for instance:
    Better quality, smaller production bloomy rinded cheeses, like Camemberts and Bries etc., which originally have a downy white bloom will often develop rust-colored streaks over their maturation. This is not deadly contamination and it will not cause your cells to disintegrate and fall out of your nose and burn through the sidewalk.. It is a secondary strain commonly found alongside the white mold that gives you that white bloom. Eventually the streaks will over take the cheese, it will likely be overly ripe and unpleasant (kinda ammonia-y)- but not deadly!

    Over time, "Food Scientists" have "purified" these mold strain to eliminate this kind of variation. This is partly why supermarket "brie" has that almost impenetrable white moldy rind that almost never dies! This is great for warehousing and truck transit, but the flavor is nothing at all. It is the unpurified strains that lend help the cheese develop interesting flavors as it matures (breaks- down).

    This is a very simplified example; for a very interesting look at this check out Pierre Boisard's excellent "Camembert: A National Myth" University of California Press, 2003. Read it now, the monolithic coporations that produce most of the world's blandist cheese are trying allow "microfiltering" of the milk for Camembert, which would essentially eliminate all of the flavor-causing bacteria in the milk-source for this traditional, important food.

    <<Also keep in mind that Roquefort's mother mold was carved off a hunk of moldy rye bread hundreds of years ago and no-ones cells exploded.>>

    And please stop trying to sanitize every food in the world, rendering it flavorless in the name the lunatic anti-bacterial fringe. People get sick from food sometimes. Life happens. It deosn't mean the rest of us have to wear haz-mat suits or store our cheeses in hermetically sealed vaults. Just use common sense. Ugh!
  • Post #18 - May 1st, 2007, 8:55 am
    Post #18 - May 1st, 2007, 8:55 am Post #18 - May 1st, 2007, 8:55 am
    hear hear, 47**!

    The mold in the above picture was gorgeous...and, unlike mold on bread, usually no cause for alarm. I wouldn't eat it if it had developed yellow mold, but the blue is quite attractive to those of us who adore and worship the cheese.
    CONNOISSEUR, n. A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
    -Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

    www.cakeandcommerce.com
  • Post #19 - May 1st, 2007, 8:56 am
    Post #19 - May 1st, 2007, 8:56 am Post #19 - May 1st, 2007, 8:56 am
    47** wrote:Is it possible to be a little less alarmist, reactionary, and otherwise ominous?

    A little for instance:
    Better quality, smaller production bloomy rinded cheeses, like Camemberts and Bries etc., which originally have a downy white bloom will often develop rust-colored streaks over their maturation. This is not deadly contamination and it will not cause your cells to disintegrate and fall out of your nose and burn through the sidewalk..


    I've seen that bloom and to the best of my knowledge, ate away at it with no ill effects. We were warned, however, about red mold, and I'm less worried about collapse and death than a simple belly ache...although after eating about 4 oz. of pure fatty goodness at Bacala last Saturday, that fear is not enough to keep me from putting something tasty in my mouth (the pork belly was delicious; I felt nothing but good after eating it).

    Your reference to "better quality" cheeses raised the issue that came up earlier; are better, higher quality cheeses more subject to externally introduced, unintentional molds? It's starting to sound like the answer to that question may be Yes.

    Hammond
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #20 - May 1st, 2007, 9:13 am
    Post #20 - May 1st, 2007, 9:13 am Post #20 - May 1st, 2007, 9:13 am
    Just my two cents: Better quality cheeses are no more or less subject to mold - it is more a function of cheese type. The cheese in your picture has a thin, natural rind - the growth of mold is favorable and adds interesting depth to it as it ages. A high quality semi-hard cheese should not develop blue molds - raw or not, they should be cleaned off before eating. So the answer is 'it depends'.
    CONNOISSEUR, n. A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
    -Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

    www.cakeandcommerce.com
  • Post #21 - May 1st, 2007, 10:50 am
    Post #21 - May 1st, 2007, 10:50 am Post #21 - May 1st, 2007, 10:50 am
    As for blue veins in semihard-hard cheeses please refer to a host of clothbound, handmade, raw milk cheddars made in Somerset, UK. I think many may exhibit some blue veining upon being opened. The still somewhat permeable cloth the cheeses wears to age can allow some air exchange and, inevitably, mold.
    Small, hairline cracks that may result from the make process (these are really hand made after all) can end up housing a bit of this blue mold. These may color the flavor, perhaps, but doesn't really need to be cut away. Try it with, try it without: you decide. It is pretty natural.

    This can be found in a host of other super high end, hand-made cheeses, from Northern Italy to Southern Wisconsin...
  • Post #22 - May 1st, 2007, 11:26 am
    Post #22 - May 1st, 2007, 11:26 am Post #22 - May 1st, 2007, 11:26 am
    47** wrote:As for blue veins in semihard-hard cheeses please refer to a host of clothbound, handmade, raw milk cheddars made in Somerset, UK. I think many may exhibit some blue veining upon being opened.


    I don't know if it's Somerset, but one of my favorite examples in this category is Montgomery by Neal's Yard.
  • Post #23 - May 1st, 2007, 1:20 pm
    Post #23 - May 1st, 2007, 1:20 pm Post #23 - May 1st, 2007, 1:20 pm
    HI,

    I stand by my earlier statements eating non-introduced molds in a cheese is simply asking for trouble. Judging a non-introduced mold by color or smell is simply not enough information.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #24 - May 3rd, 2007, 9:17 pm
    Post #24 - May 3rd, 2007, 9:17 pm Post #24 - May 3rd, 2007, 9:17 pm
    When in Europe I remarked on the delicious varieties of cheeses I had never seen before, and was told that many Euro cheeses are made from raw milk, and that US manufactured cheeses all used pasteurized milk. Hence, the difference. Does anyone know if this is true?
    What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?
  • Post #25 - May 3rd, 2007, 9:32 pm
    Post #25 - May 3rd, 2007, 9:32 pm Post #25 - May 3rd, 2007, 9:32 pm
    Cogito wrote:When in Europe I remarked on the delicious varieties of cheeses I had never seen before, and was told that many Euro cheeses are made from raw milk, and that US manufactured cheeses all used pasteurized milk. Hence, the difference. Does anyone know if this is true?


    Very. Though raw milk cheeses are (illegally) surging in popularity here.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #26 - May 3rd, 2007, 10:03 pm
    Post #26 - May 3rd, 2007, 10:03 pm Post #26 - May 3rd, 2007, 10:03 pm
    Well, they've got a point then. I have a friend who comes from a farm in Holland. She visits her family a couple of times yearly and smuggles back in her bigass purse about 5 lb of the best tasting cheese I've ever had.
    What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?
  • Post #27 - May 11th, 2007, 12:11 pm
    Post #27 - May 11th, 2007, 12:11 pm Post #27 - May 11th, 2007, 12:11 pm
    Dmnkly wrote:
    Cogito wrote:When in Europe I remarked on the delicious varieties of cheeses I had never seen before, and was told that many Euro cheeses are made from raw milk, and that US manufactured cheeses all used pasteurized milk. Hence, the difference. Does anyone know if this is true?


    Very. Though raw milk cheeses are (illegally) surging in popularity here.


    Actually this is not true. There are quite a few American raw milk cheeses available and they are absolutely legal.

    But raw or pasteurized milk alone does not make cheese better or worse. Like any ingredient, it depends on many things - the cheesemaker, aging, handling, etc.

    Also, mold is not only introduced when it's made. It's also introduced, allowed to flourish, or inhibited, while it's aged by a skilled affineur.

    But having said all that, even perfect cheeses can make you ill if you're unused to digesting them, like many foods.
  • Post #28 - May 11th, 2007, 1:13 pm
    Post #28 - May 11th, 2007, 1:13 pm Post #28 - May 11th, 2007, 1:13 pm
    Unlike in Europe, however, all raw milk cheeses here (domestic or imported) need to be aged a certain period of time. 60 days maybe? This makes it almost impossible to have soft, runny, raw-milk cheeses here.

    -Will
  • Post #29 - May 11th, 2007, 9:34 pm
    Post #29 - May 11th, 2007, 9:34 pm Post #29 - May 11th, 2007, 9:34 pm
    Louisa Chu wrote:
    Dmnkly wrote:
    Cogito wrote:When in Europe I remarked on the delicious varieties of cheeses I had never seen before, and was told that many Euro cheeses are made from raw milk, and that US manufactured cheeses all used pasteurized milk. Hence, the difference. Does anyone know if this is true?


    Very. Though raw milk cheeses are (illegally) surging in popularity here.


    Actually this is not true. There are quite a few American raw milk cheeses available and they are absolutely legal.


    Seriously? Wow. Then the mainstream food press is in need of some serious fact-correction. Not that this should come as a surprise.

    Forgive the dissemination of bad info... very embarrassed.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #30 - May 11th, 2007, 10:27 pm
    Post #30 - May 11th, 2007, 10:27 pm Post #30 - May 11th, 2007, 10:27 pm
    Unless the rules have changed, raw milk cheeses are fine in the united states as long as they've been aged for at least 60 days.

    Are there legal ones that are younger than that in the US?
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.

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