When a cheese is referred to as soft-ripened, it has attributes, like:
- A bright white rind called bloomy rind
- Insides that are softer than outside rind
- Gets softer as it ripens
Soft-ripened cheeses are like two cheeses in one. The outside rind is has a unique texture and flavor all it’s own and the creamy inside has a character that could not exist without the protection of the rind.
Soft-ripened cheeses are made from all types of milk, but usually just cow’s milk. Once the milk is mixed with cultures, penicillium candidum is added in or sprayed into the cheese at the start of the aging process to ensure the distinctive white, bloomy rind develops.
There’s a sub-category of soft-ripened cheese called Triple-crème cheeses. This sub-classification means cream was added at the beginning of the cheese making process and boosts the butterfat in the cheese to 75% or greater. Cheeses that are between 60% and 75% butterfat are called double-crèmes. If double-crème’s were invented in the 1850’s, why did it take humanity so long to come up with the idea to inject a double-crème with more cream to make the even-richer, triple-crème? Too long for sure.
Soft ripened cheese are only aged from two to eight weeks, and will always be white on the outside. This type of cheese is also very delicate and has a limited shelf life. By looking at, smelling, and feeling the cheese, the age can be determined. Do not buy soft ripened cheese if there are grey spots on the outside, or there are cracks in the rind, or there’s a smell of ammonia.
Soft ripened cheeses have a slight chewy texture which creates unique experience and sensual intrigue, that leads to an exciting mouthfeel with long, lingering finish.
When storing soft ripened cheese, it’s necessary to let the cheese breathe. This can be done by placing the cheese in its original packaging if that was a box. If there’s no box, then try using wax paper and placing the cheese on a plate, loosely wrapped or with a few holes poked in the wax paper.
It’s recommended to remove the rind when enjoying a soft-ripened cheese with wine, champagne, or sparkling wine, because eating the rind can impact flavors.
One of the best examples of a soft-ripened cheese is the MT. TAM mold ripened variety made my the Cowgirl Creamery.
Cowgirl Creamery was founded by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith. The two college friends made their way to the West Coast in 1976 on a self-described "hippie trip," blue Chevy van and all.
Cowgirl Creamery cheese is a product of Northern California's unique terroir. This cheese could not be made anywhere else in the world and taste like it does. Everything from the hyperlocal products used to the specific bacteria found in the air at Point Reyes contributes to the composition and flavor of Cowgirl Creamery's cheeses.
The award-winning Cowgirl Creamery, Mt Tam cow’s-milk cheese, is an amazing triple-cream specimen that’s made in Petaluma, California. Mt Tam makes up 50% of Cowgirl Creamery’s total sales and is Cowgirl Creamery's signature cheese.
In a step more common to Gouda production than to triple creams, Cowgirl Creamery washes the curds before transferring them to molds to lower the acidity and heighten the sweetness of the Mt Tam.
Cowgirl Creamery's cows are a crossbreed of Jersey and Holstein cows, which owner Sue says offer a milk extra-rich in butterfat and protein.
Wonder where the name Mt Tam comes from? Cowgirl Creamery names all their aged cheeses after landmarks or other features local to the Marin Headlands in California. MT TAM is actually named for Mt. Tamalpais. A local landmark north of San Francisco.
The Mt. Tam cheese comes in a 10oz round that’s available all year round. For being a soft-ripened cheese, when cutting it open, it does not ooze like a brie cheese would, but is more firm. Cowgirl Creamery describes the cheese as underscored with notes of mushrooms, grass and hay flavor, but subtle flavors like citrus and lemon are also pronounced in this mellow cheese.