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We were eating brie cheese last night, and someone asked if the rind was edible.

I was tempted to say "yes, it's not plastic". But then I realized that while it doesn't look like plastic or wax, I really have no idea what it's made of.

Is it chemical? Is it organic? Maybe fungus or bacteria? In that case, what kind (and would eating too much of it be unhealthy)?


I've seen the question Are you supposed to eat the rind of Brie cheese?, but none of the answers mention what the rind is made of.

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The rind of Brie is Penicillium Camemberti it's a completely harmless fungus which gives brie its taste. You can eat it, or not, up to you: you are supposed to.

If it smells very strongly of ammonia the cheese is just a bit too ripe but it won't do you any harm.

  • 2
    Interesting. I would have never thought it could be penicillium. I wonder if it could affect people with allergy to penicillin. Edit: after a quick google search it seems there are many cheese eaters allergic to penicillin that have no symthoms when eating cammembert, brie, or blue cheeses. – J.A.I.L. Nov 9 '12 at 12:31
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    What an interesting question......... ok after a couple of mins googling it looks like the two allergies (to the mold or antibiotic) are not related – vwiggins Nov 9 '12 at 12:35
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    @vwiggins, yeah, thankfully the only thing the two share is the name. Otherwise I'd be breaking out in hives every time I ate Brie. – Marti Nov 9 '12 at 20:59
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    @Marti: penicillin is called like that because it is produced by members of the Penicillium genus. – nico Nov 10 '12 at 10:05
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The rind of Brie cheese, as well as other soft cheeses like Camambert, Boursault, etc, are generally edible. There may be some types that aren't, but I haven't seen them. The rinds are simply dried, hardened outer layers of cheese that have come in contact with mould. So eat away.

  • So, it's made of the same stuff as the inner part of the cheese, and should have the same composition. Isn't it? – J.A.I.L. Nov 9 '12 at 11:23
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    It's the same raw material with some chemical changes from the exposure to air and microorganisms. Sometimes there's some salt as well I think. – GdD Nov 9 '12 at 11:42
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    -1 for being wrong. The rind of some cheeses is the dries outer part...... like parmigiano reggiano but not any of the cheese you name. – vwiggins Nov 9 '12 at 12:10
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    It is perfectly edible, but calling it "the same stuff" goes too far: exposure to air changes it radically. If you cut off some brie, then let it sit where air can reach it for a day or two, you will see a flat, white fur developing on the cut, which eventually turns into the same kind of rind. I presume it's the same fungus that gives the brie its taste. – Cerberus Nov 9 '12 at 12:12
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    @nico I've been trying to think of a good way to explain this but coming up short. I think the best way I can think of is that the white bit is the bloom of the fungus, in the same way a mushroom cap is. To say it's the same substance as the cheese would be like saying a mushroom is a log just because it grew on a log. I'm not sure if that helps....... – vwiggins Nov 14 '12 at 12:48
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Not sprayed with the penicillium, that is added in the milk mixture. The curds are put into molds to form the round shape, then the rounds of cheese is brined, that is when thesalt comes in. The rounds are then placed on racks in climate controlled rooms, and are flipped a couple of times. The rind is a friendly mould that forms naturally, and is very safe and tastey.

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Brie and Camembert are known as "white mold cheeses", and yes eating the rind will do you no harm, and is actually believed to be helpful for your immune system. Enjoy!

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