Gouda cheese is a semi-hard cheese originating from the Netherlands. It is popular due to its melting ability and is commonly used in cheese-based soups, grilled sandwiches, and fondue.
So, what happens when you go to your fridge and take out a nice piece of Gouda to impress your friends with your new fondue kit, only to find the cheese has mold on it? Can the moldy parts be cut away and the rest eaten? Is the mold dangerous and how can you prevent this from happening again?
In this article, we answer all these questions and more, so for all you need to know about mold on Gouda cheese, keep reading.
Can you eat Gouda cheese with mold?
No, eating any cheese including Gouda with mold growing on it is not advised, as mold can produce mycotoxins that can be harmful to humans and animals. Inhalation of its spores can also cause allergic asthma attacks, and ingested mold can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, vomiting, and numerous other health complaints.
Apart from the health implications of eating moldy Gouda, when mold grows on any cheese, it produces enzymes to break the cheese down and absorb the nutrients within it. As a result of these enzymes, both the texture and taste of the cheese are greatly affected, making it very unpleasant to eat.
What types of mold grow on Gouda cheese?
Penicillium is the strain of mold you will find growing on your Gouda cheese. This strain is commonly found growing on fruits and vegetables, within soil, on wood, and on some dried foodstuffs.
Although it is possible for many other types of mold to grow on Gouda and other cheeses, penicillium is the most likely. You will be able to tell if the mold on your Gouda is of the penicillium strain by its texture and corporation.
In its first stages, the strain begins as small, circular patches of powdery white growth. Over time, its color can change from white to blue, green, or even orange and pink hues.
Why does mold grow on Gouda cheese?
Poor storage is the number one reason for mold growing on semi-soft cheeses such as Gouda.
Mold only needs a few things to be able to grow on your block of Gouda, which includes, nutrients, which the proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and minerals within the Gouda provide, moisture, which can be found within your fridge if the humidity level is too great, oxygen, which it can easily get if left uncovered and it needs the right temperature in order to spread quickly.
The cheese should be stored in a refrigerator between 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit. Penicillium mold can grow even at refrigerated temperatures, but keeping within this range will slow its growth, should the temperature increase past 45 degrees Fahrenheit, the speed at which the mold can grow increases rapidly.
High moisture levels are also a common cause of mold growth on any refrigerated cheese. Mold only requires a humidity level greater than 55% in order to survive, and as most fridges have an ambient humidity of between 30-50%, even small changes such as storing food that has not cooled down will increase the humidity to an acceptable level for mold to grow.
Can you cut off the mold on Gouda cheese and eat the rest?
No, it is commonly stated that when mold grows on Gouda or many other hard-to-semi-hard kinds of cheese, it can simply be cut off and the rest enjoyed. This is not the case for several reasons.
First, when mold grows on a semi-soft cheese its roots (called threads), can penetrate some way into the deeper parts of the cheese, should you scrape off the top layer of visible mold, the threads would still remain below. These threads can still cause allergic reactions and sickness in some people, so this is not advised.
Second, the mycotoxins that mold can create can stay present within the cheese, so removing the visible mold will not make the rest of the cheese harmless to eat, and there could be serious health consequences from consuming mycotoxins.
Third, when you remove the mold from the cheese, no matter if you cut several inches away, there is a good chance that you will disturb the mold and cause it to release spores into the air. Not only will these spores spread onto the rest of the cheese, making the rest inedible, but they could also be inhaled, leading to health complaints such as breathlessness, coughing, and asthma attacks for some.
How to prevent mold on Gouda cheese
The good news is that preventing mold on Gouda is a fairly simple process, all you need to do is take away what it needs to live and do everything you can to slow its growth to keep your cheese as fresh as possible.
With that being said, here are some tips to prevent Gouda cheese from molding.
The bottom of the fridge suffers the least from fluctuations in temperature and remains the closest to the setting of the thermostat. This is because warm air rises to the top, making the upper shelves of the fridge one of the warmest areas, and the bottom shelves, the coolest.
For further protection, placing the cheese towards the back of the fridge (or even better, within a salad crisper drawer), protects the cheese from temperature fluctuations when the door is opened and closed.
Keep the humidity down
Keeping the humidity of your fridge down will not only help to prevent mold growth on your Gouda cheese but every other item in there too.
Let food cool completely before putting it in the fridge and try to cover pots and pans filled with sauces and high moisture content foods.
Wrap the cheese in parchment paper
Wrapping Gouda in parchment paper before you store it allows any excess moisture that may be either on the cheese already, (or will be released when the cheese “sweats”), to be absorbed.
By absorbing the liquid, the parchment paper lowers the overall humidity around the cheese and makes it a less inviting environment for mold to grow.
It also has the benefit of not imparting the same “plasticky” taste that can come from covering Gouda directly in plastic wrap, and allows the cheese to breathe naturally, maintaining its texture and taste.
Store it in an airtight container
Mold needs oxygen, and if you take that away, it simply cannot grow. Take your Gouda and wrap it in parchment paper as previously suggested. Then, place it in a dry, airtight container at the bottom of the fridge near the back.
Keeping the cheese in an airtight container will help to keep the oxygen level around the cheese low, and it will also prevent cross-contamination between other items in your fridge that may have begun to grow mold and stops any spores from being able to land on the cheese and begin a colony.
Check the expiration date
As you are purchasing your Gouda cheese, check its expiration date. A cheese that has gone past its expiration date is likely to become rancid and will grow mold much more easily than fresh cheese.
Buy the amount that you will be able to use within the time stated on the packet to prevent needing to throw away the rest when mold inevitably grows.
Gouda cheese freezes better than many other kinds of cheese due to its fairly low water content. This means it can be frozen without concern for its taste or texture being spoiled.
To freeze Gouda and prevent mold growth, cover the cheese in parchment paper and place it into an airtight container. Whilst frozen, mold and bacteria will go into a state of hibernation and little to no growth will occur. Gouda cheese will last six months in the freezer before it begins to be affected by freezer burn and general deterioration.
Gouda cheese is a semi-soft cheese with a lower water content than many other kinds of cheese, this makes it harder for mold to grow, but it certainly still can. Poor storage techniques are the most likely cause of mold growth on Gouda, and the mold can be dangerous to humans and animals, so if the cheese has grown mold, it should be discarded.
Storing the cheese in parchment paper, in an airtight container at the bottom of the fridge or freezing is the best way to store Gouda cheese to prevent mold growth.