Monday, May 05, 2014

You will always find a block of hard cheese in my fridge.  Parmesan, Peccorino and more recently an Assiago are my go to cheeses.  I don't actually like most cheese (gasp in horror!), and I have been conditioning myself to like them more over many years as initially I couldn't stand any cheese and now mozzarella and hard cheeses have made it onto my good list.

I grate hard cheese into sauces, sprinkle it on pasta, mix it into salad dressings and grate large slices with a vegetable peeler to be tossed with lettuce and even just eaten as a pre dinner nibble broken into shards of varying sizes.  So that leaves me with quite a lot of leftover cheese rind and good, because they are perfect for adding flavour to stews, soups and my favourite, into stock for risotto.  

Simply throw the rind into the pot of bubbling sauce or stock and scoop it out before serving.  It will impart amazing flavour to any dish, so please don't throw them away!  If you have a backlog of them simply place them in the freezer and they are ready to boost the flavour when you need them.  Just be careful when seasoning a dish as the rind can add quite a bit of salt so taste before you throw any more salt in. 

My latest Parmesan rind flavoured the chicken stock used to make this; Baked Portabello Mushroom with Thyme and Olive Oil topped with a Parmesan Risotto, Home cured Brown Sugar Bacon and a Fried Egg (.......from our very own chickens- more on this soon!)

A few cheese rind facts;

Cheese in Europe is made with many old traditions which are still carried on today. The rind develops during the ripening process and protects the cheese from drying out and unwanted mold. It also gives each cheese its particular taste and smell.

Cheese rind develops when the pressed cheese forms are laid in a salt brine and/or sprinkled with salt. Soft cheeses are only in the brine a half hour or so, while hard cheeses may be brined for up to three days. The salt enters the surface of the cheese and pulls out water, which makes the outer surface of the cheese hard.

After the salt water bath, cheese is usually ripened in a cheese cellar under conditions specific to each type of cheese. The cheese surface dries out more and becomes even harder. Also during this time, the cheese is treated; it is turned regularly, brushed and washed. Salt brine is rubbed over the surface and sometimes other mixtures containing herbs and spices. Natural molds and bacteria grow on the surface, too, which helps protect the cheese from decay and gives the cheese even more taste. The hard rind formed through this procedure with no other treatment is edible. One caveat is that pregnant women, the elderly and people with weak immune systems should not eat the rind due to the small chance that Listeria, a harmful bacterium, can also be present.

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