Whitemold Ripened Cheese

The white mold-ripened cheeses, of which Camembert and Brie are the most well-known, are primarily made in France, where they are also among the most popular. These cheeses vary only slightly; Camembert is made principally in the Normandy region of France, whereas most Brie is produced in Melun and Meaux, just outside of Paris. Brie wheels are usually a bit larger, with bacteria on the surface contributing to flavor development.

Although similar versions of both Brie and Camembert are made in Germany, Switzerland, and other European countries, as well as South America and even the United States, manufacturing conditions are not that different. In general, whole cow's milk is used, and double or even triple cream versions exist in which the milk is supplemented with cream (not for the faint of heart). Since these cheeses are aged for as little as a few weeks, in the United States, the milk must be pasteurized (Box 5-4). In France, however, raw milk is most frequently used. The milk is inoculated with a mesophilic starter culture, which is allowed to grow and produce acid before the chymosin is added. Spores of P. camemberti can also be added to the milk (or applied later to the surface of the hooped cheese).A related species, Penicillium caseicolum is also used, because it produces a whiter mycelia.

As with blue cheese, the coagulum is firm when cut into large curds particles.The curds are gently stirred, but not cooked. Rather, they are almost immediately filled into forms.These steps decrease syneresis and result in cheese with high moisture levels.The hooped cheeses are flipped several times over an eighteen-hour period, during which time the lactose is fermented and the pH decreases to as low as 4.7. As with blue cheese, the cheese is then brined or dry-salted, and, if not already added to the milk, spores are applied, but only onto the surface.

The cheese wheels are then moved into ripening rooms (similar to those used for blue cheese, e.g., 10°C, high humidity).The cheese sits on shelves designed to promote contact with air, and are turned periodically. It takes only a week or two for a white mycelium mat to form across the entire surface. However, the extent of mold growth and subsequent flavor development depends on the target market, so the ripening time may be several weeks longer. In cheese made from raw milk, a diverse microflora, consisting of yeasts, brevibacteria, en-terococci and staphylococci, and coliforms, may also emerge during extended ripening. Thus, not only will there be more flavor and texture development (see below) as ripening continues, but the surface mat may become less white and more pigmented. In the United States, a more mild flavored, white-matted product is preferred, so ripening times are usually short. To control growth of mold, the cheese is wrapped and either held for more ripening or else stored at <4°C.

Not only do the Brie-type cheeses have a different appearance from the blue mold cheeses, but they also have a quite different flavor and texture. Despite these differences, the progression of flavor and texture development is similar. The proteinases and peptidases produced by P. camemberti are similar to those produced by P. roqueforti. Subsequent production of ammonia, methanethiol, and other sulfur compounds are derived from amino acid metabolism and are characteristic of Brie-type cheese. The scent of ammonia can be striking in a well-aged Brie. Lipolysis of triglycerides and fatty acid metabolism by P. camemberti are also important, and methyl ketones can be abundant.

It is interesting that whereas blue cheese is crumbly and brittle, Brie-type cheeses are soft and creamy. The creamy, even fluid texture of these cheeses is now thought to occur as a result of protein hydrolysis, as well as the increase in pH due to ammonia. In particular, not only are fungal proteases important in texture development, but as1 casein hydrolysis by chy-mosin and the natural milk protease, plasmin, is also involved.

For many of the cheeses discussed in this chapter, the geometry of the forms or hoops that give shape to the cheese have not been described in much detail. In many cases, whether the cheese is collected and shaped into rectangular blocks or round forms or whether the hoops or forms contain 5 Kg or 200 Kg has only modest bearing on the properties of the cheese.This is most definitely not the case for Brie-type cheese, where shape has a major impact on flavor and texture development. Since ripening depends on the fungi growing exclusively on the surface, the rate of flavor and texture development within the interior of the cheese is necessarily a function of the diffusion rate of enzymes and enzyme reac-tants and products from the exterior.

Although Camembert wheels usually have a smaller diameter (about 10 cm to 12 cm) than Brie (about 30 cm to 32 cm), their heights are essentially the same (about 3.5 cm) and the geometric center of these cheeses is never more than 2 cm from the surface.Thus, the enzymes and reactants (e.g., ammonia) produced at the surface have only a short distance to travel before reaching the center. If Brie cheese were to be made in thicker wheels, like those used for blue cheese (e.g., 15 cm to 20 cm diameter), it would obviously take a long time for the reactants to diffuse into the center region. During that period, the exterior portions would have been exposed to those enzymes far too long.The cheese might be perfectly ripened in the center, but well over-ripened at the surface.

Finally, as with P. roqueforti, growth of P camemberti in the manufacture of Brie-type cheeses depends on lactic acid as an energy source.The subsequent rise in pH (from 4.6 to as high as pH 7.0 at the surface) is similarly due to lactate consumption and ammonia produc tion. This return to a neutral pH also contributes to the diversity of microorganisms that grow on the surface of these cheeses (see above) and, more importantly, poses a special food safety risk due to the possible presence of Listeria monocytogenes (see Box 5-4).

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