Soft-ripened cheeses ripen from the outside in. They are soft even when chilled and can be runny when at room temperature. The outside of a soft-ripened cheese is often a white, bloomy rind that has been added to the milk or sprayed with a mold (penicillium candidum) before a short aging period.
Types of soft-ripened cheeses include Brie and Camembert, both French cheeses, and Limburger, which originated in Belgium. In the U.S. most of these cheeses are made from pasteurized milk while in Europe many are still made from raw milk. FDA regulations require raw milk cheese to be aged at least 60 days, so most European cheese makers make both raw milk and pasteurized versions of their cheeses that fall into this category.
- Pair Brie and Camembert with juicy fruits such as melon, grapes and berries.
- Prepare a Brie torte by splitting a Brie wheel and placing ingredients inside. Try a combination such as salmon and dill, Cajun cured pork and seasoning, or cranberries and nuts.
- Serve any of these cheeses chopped on salads. Pair diced Brie or Camembert with candied pecans on lettuce, or cut the cheese into wedges and roll it in cracked pepper and herbs before going on the salad. Limburger is delicious cubed and served on a salad with Virginia ham, celery, toasted almonds and tomatoes.
- Try them in sandwiches. Limburger pairs well with dark breads like rye and whole-grain – lay this cheese on grilled turkey and bacon or in a simple Limburger and onion sandwich. Brie and Camembert go well in crusty breads with ham, turkey, roast beef and/or prosciutto, or in a breakfast sandwich of English muffins, poached eggs and bacon.
- Bake a Brie sweet treat – make a puff pastry, or top a Brie wheel with brown sugar, nuts and brandy.