Chow Town

The daily dish on Kansas City's food and drink scene

Microbes are important part of cheese making

11/13/2013 1:39 PM

11/13/2013 1:57 PM

Since I like to talk about cheese, I often find myself speaking to various groups of people about it.

Whether it be a group of elderly ladies at the store or a class of culinary students at the art institute, the process of cheese making always comes up.

Depending on the curiosity of the group, the science of cheese sometimes sneaks into the conversation.

It most commonly comes up when we talk about two things, raw milk and washed-rind cheeses. They want to know why raw milk is better then pasteurized milk for cheese? And why washed rind cheeses smell?

The answers to these questions are found in the natural microbes that populate the milk and the finished cheese. Microbes are very small organisms invisible to the naked eye. In cheese this usually means different forms of bacteria, fungi and even yeast.

Microbes are very important to the world around us and without them cheese could not exist. In raw milk we find natural microbes that when allowed to develop create the flavors, textures and aromas needed to make good cheese.

Cheeses like Wilde Weide Gouda or real French Roqufort are good examples of the, in many cases, superior nature of raw milk cheese.

Specifically in washed-rind cheeses, microbial bacteria are encouraged to populate the outside of the cheese by washing the cheese. The growth of the microbes creates the characteristic stinky cheese.

If you have ever had Taleggio, Green Dirt Farms Bossa or even a good Gruyere you know what I am talking.

With washed-rind cheeses, the smell may bring to mind bodily smells that we in American culture try to cover up think of among other things stinky feet.

Check out this video of some of the people whose jobs allow them to study and help us understand the world of microbes. And learn more about the bizarre life of raw milk and stinky cheese.