WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: PARMESAN RINDMonday, 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.
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.