Brie is a cow’s milk cheese named after the region in which it was first created. It has a soft texture, and pale color, on the outside casing is a white mold that often has an ammonia smell with blue veining throughout.
So, the big question is, can you eat moldy Brie, how can you stop it from growing the wrong kind of fungi and can you eat the rind?
In this article, we will answer all these questions and more, so, for all you need to know about moldy Brie, keep reading.
What kind of mold grows on Brie cheese?
Penicillium Caniddum is deliberately added to the outer layer of Brie, this fungi is not only entirely edible but also adds a distinctive nutty character to the cheese. This is the strain that is used to create the mold within many blue cheeses.
Blue patches (veins), can also be seen throughout the cheese, and this again is from the same Penicillium strain as is found on its outer edges.
Other strains of Penicillium mold can grow on the cheese if not stored correctly, and some of these may be harmful to humans and animals.
What does moldy Brie look like?
Spotting fungi growth on Brie’s surface can be difficult, as its pale color can mask the initial growth stages, and as mold is deliberately added to the cheese, it can be difficult to determine which is intended and which is not.
Growth on the exterior of the cheese is generally nothing to be concerned about, however, growth in the surface of the cheese is not intended and the cheese should be discarded if this is found.
Mold on the surface will usually appear as small patches of fuzzy or powdery growth with white coloration. Over time, its color can change from white to blue, blue-green, gray, or even orange. Signs of bacteria growth such as the cheese becoming sticky and smelling foul are further signs that your cheese is turning bad.
What are the blue patches on its rind?
Blue mold growing on the rind is penicillium Canidum. This strain is usually white, but, like many other strains, can change its color over time to become bluer.
There is little need for concern over growth on the rind of Brie cheese, as this variety is mold ripened, meaning it was deliberately added to the cheese to create its distinctive texture and flavor profiles.
Is it dangerous?
As a general rule, the fungus found on cheese rinds such as Brie cheese are not dangerous and pose no threat as long as the person consuming it has no allergies specific to mold.
However, the mold found growing on the surface of the cheese if improperly stored can pose a threat and can cause potentially severe symptoms in those with suppressed immune systems or allergic asthma.
Even healthy individuals can suffer from symptoms brought about by exposure to mold if ingested or inhaled in large enough quantities, some of which include:
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
- Skin irritation
It is not to say that the mold growing on brie rind should not be eaten, as this will rarely cause any issues as long as you are generally healthy and are not allergic, however, caution should be used.
Can it still be eaten, will its flavor be spoiled?
Yes, as long as the mold has formed on the rind of the cheese, it is more than likely safe to eat and will not impact its flavor in a negative way. It is only when you find fungi growing on the surface of the cheese that you should become concerned, these strains are not Intentionally placed within the cheese and should be treated with caution.
The other factor to consider is if the cheese has grown fungi due to improper storage conditions, it may not be the only concern. Bacteria can grow under very similar conditions, and so where you find mold, you may also find an abundance of bacteria, including harmful strains such as E. coli that can cause food poisoning.
Can you eat Brie if you have allergies?
No, despite the strain of mold used to create the rind on Brie and other bloomy-rind cheeses being harmless to most, if you have a suppressed immune system or any allergies, it is best to avoid any mold-ripened cheeses such as Brie. This is because the fungi can release spores that can cause potentially serious allergic reactions in those susceptible to them.
Can you cut off the bad parts and eat the rest?
It is not advised to cut off unintended mold from semi-soft cheeses, as mold can develop roots (called threads), which burrow down into the cheese.
Even if you were to cut several inches of the affected cheese away, these threads could have introduced mycotoxins (a toxic substance), deeper into the remaining cheese.
Consuming these mycotoxins can cause symptoms of mold exposure, such as those listed above.
Mold also grows more readily on cheese that has begun to turn rancid, so cutting off the moldy parts and eating the rest would usually result in you consuming cheese that may look ok on the surface, but may have a sour taste, gritty texture, and a smell of ammonia, making it very unpleasant to eat.
Is the crust on Brie supposed to be fuzzy?
Yes, the strain of mold “Penicillium Candidum”, that is specifically introduced to form its rind will form as a white fluffy growth. Once the mold has formed this texture, it is patted down to make it flat, then left to form the cotton-like fluffy growth once more. It is then patted down again, and over time this creates the characteristic rind.
Finding the cheese has begun to once more grow a fluffy outer layer on its rind is nothing to be concerned with.
How to store Brie
As discussed, Brie naturally comes with a layer of penicillium candidum that creates the rind, but other inedible and potentially harmful strains can grow on the cheese if it is not stored correctly.
The following tips will help you to store the cheese properly, improving its shelf-life considerably.
The bottom of a refrigerator not only keeps the most consistent temperature (as heat rises to the upper shelves), but it also has the lowest ambient humidity.
Store the cheese on the bottom shelf, preferably towards the back, as this will further protect it from temperature fluctuations when the door is opened and closed.
Use a salad crisper if you have one
Further to the above point, if you have a salad crisper drawer in your fridge, this is an excellent location to store your Brie. This is because it benefits from the lower and more consistent temperatures and humidity levels, but has the additional benefit of the drawer itself acting as a barrier to any increases in temperature due to the opening or closing of the door, or any warm items being placed in the fridge.
The salad crisper drawer also helps prevent cross-contamination from other items being stored in the fridge, stopping their flavors and odors from being passed onto the cheese.
Wrap it in parchment paper
Semi-soft cheeses need to “breathe”, and so wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap will not only prevent the microbes that help to ripen the cheese from receiving the oxygen they require, but can also impart a plasticky taste whilst trapping a layer of moisture on the surface of the cheese.
Instead, wrap it loosely in parchment (wax) paper, and place it in an airtight plastic or glass container. This will give the cheese enough oxygen, and prevent it from drying out.
Only bring small portions to room temperature
Semi-soft cheeses benefit from being eaten at room temperature as the flavors and textures are greatly improved. However, each time you take out Brie to bring it to room temperature, mold, and bacteria begin to grow at a rapid rate.
Bringing the cheese to room temperature, then cooling it back down repeatedly gives fungi and bacteria the kind of temperature ranges they need to thrive, making food poisoning and allergic reactions highly likely.
So, instead, take out the cheese and cut off the amount that you will be able to use in one sitting, then place the rest back in the fridge. This way, only the portion you plan to eat will come to room temperature once and can be safely eaten.
Should you find yourself with more cheese than you can realistically eat within its use-by date, you do have the option of freezing it.
Due to its high water content, Brie can be negatively affected by freezing. Its delicate taste and creamy texture can become somewhat less powerful and slightly gritty, however, it will remain safe to eat for several months.
The faster the cheese is frozen, the less likely negative effects will be seen. So, if your freezer has the ability to “quick freeze “, you should make use of this to keep the cheese at its best.
How to tell if your Brie has gone bad
Mold and bacteria begin to grow on cheese more easily once it has begun to turn rancid. From sight alone, it is not always easy to spot if it has gone bad, but there are several ways to tell if your Brie has begun to turn bad, which include:
- A hard texture around the edges
- Darkening in color
- A smell of ammonia
- A sour taste
- A crumbly and gritty texture
Brie is a semi-soft cheese with a high water content. As a result, it is prone to mold and bacteria growth. The rind is generally safe to eat for healthy individuals, but surface mold can be harmful and should be discarded. The best way to prevent mold and bacteria growth is to cover it in parchment paper, then place it in an airtight plastic container at the bottom of a fridge, preferably towards the back.