Greetings Culture blog readers! My name is Molly and I live in Virginia, where I am building a small dairy and creamery which will hopefully be open and selling cheese by spring 2013. My Culture blog will focus on making cheese, miscellaneous food-centric thoughts, and the adventures I have on my way to becoming a licensed dairy! So, without further ado, a few thoughts on mold:
Did you know that the same group of molds that brought us Penicillin is also responsible for the flavors that make Brie, Camembert, and Roquefort so delicious? Did you also know that some other members of the genus produce toxins?
Fungi collectively form a HUGE group of organisms- about 100,000 species strong (just for contrast, there are a little over 5,700 mammal species)- some delicious and some deadly. While most molds are too inconspicuous to even be on our radar, three species of the genus Penicillium have played important roles in human history.
Between my appetite and my occupation, I often have a lot of cheeses in my refrigerator. So much so, that I can lose track of them. A piece of cheese can easily go astray in those 28-cubic feet, slipping past the cartons, bottles, jars, and leftovers. That’s apparently what happened to a half wheel of Canadian camembert some time ago. I have no idea how many weeks passed since I had stored the cut cheese. But when I rediscovered it in the food ghetto at the back of my frig, the wayward curd was loosely dressed in a wrinkled piece of cheese paper.
Peeling back the covering, I expected to find a sad little corpse of a cheese. But actually it didn’t look too bad. A bit aged, of course, its youthful dewiness all gone, it’s shape deflated. But the rind was still white and flocked like camembert and inside the cheese was the color of Irish butter yet dense like fudge. (See the photo.)
25 December 2010
So, it’s 9:45 on Christmas night, and I can honestly say that I am fed up with eating, at last. Seriously. Camembert, Smoked Gouda, Iberico, Manchego, Quince Paste, crudite, crackers, sourdough rolls, ginger and walnut loaf, Menage a Trois, ham, turkey, cabbage salad, herb salad, tart cranberries, farfalla primavera… and then the desserts. Four cakes, a gingerbread loaf, homemade fudge, snowballs, shortbread, a molasses cookie with cracked black pepper in it, oatmeal cookies, white chocolate covered pretzels… My mom went all-out for days and is now nestled in her bed with the beginning of a winter flu, the poor love. As I am writing this, the last stirring creature, my Dad, has just crept by, fingers gesturing “goodnight,” after having wrapped white bundt cake with peppermint drizzle and cinnamon coffee cakes in plastic to the stylings of the Vince Guaraldi Trio on repeat.
In my travels up and down stairs and around tables at the restaurant, I get lots of questions about our cheese list. I’m often surprised by the cheeses people steer towards, and by which cheeses never get ordered. I can’t seem to unearth predictable patterns, and perhaps that’s due to the wide range of knowledge levels out there. The one standby rule, which is my favorite, is that EVERYONE likes ALL of our cheeses once they take a bite. Never have I had to make the terrifying, rejected-food-walk back to the kitchen with a cheese plate.