How do you tell when Brie is ripe?
- Miss M
I need to purchase a whole wheel of Brie cheese. How do I tell if it is "ripe"? Should I buy it already ripe or let it ripen at home? How far in advance should I buy it? Does the sell by date offer me any clues? Thanks!
Brie is considered ripe when the outside turns kind of brown and bulges when you press on it. But I hope you have better luck than I have had finding ripe Brie!
I found out recently that it is difficult to find ripe Brie in the U.S. because it is "stabilized," so it has a longer shelf life. Unfortunately, this keeps the Brie from fully maturing to the point where you get that rich, pungent flavor and wonderful, oozey texture.
Even if you cannot find unstabilized Brie locally, I think you will have the best results if you purchase your wheel of Brie a day in advance, and take it out of the fridge several hours before serving so that it is room temperature.
I disagree somewhat with what Gina said about how to tell Brie is ripe.
First, I think it should be pretty much uniformly white. Especially, the corners should be white and should not look darker or "wetter" than the rest of the cheese.
A good cheese merchant won't sell brie that's overripe; I think as well a good cheese merchant will let you sniff it to make sure you don't smell anything ammonia-like.
I've heard it said that brie is perfect when it's slightly "runny", but really, it doesn't have to be.
Finally, if you want a real treat, try a brie-type cheese--that is, a ripened cheese--made with goat's milk rather than cow's milk. Has a nice, refreshing "tang" to it.
Another very important thing to look at is how much butterfat is in the Brie. Regular Brie is around 40%, double cream has a minimum of 60% and triple cream is minimum of 75%. The higher the fat content, the more runny and the creamier the Brie tends to be...so if you are a huge fan of that runny, rich bloomy Brie flavor, get a higher fat content to start with. Regular Brie, when ripe, is actually fairly firm and holds up much better if you are going to bake it. If you are going to use it just as a cheese a good double, or triple cream Brie, will have that creamy, runny consistency of melted cheese at it's center and barely hold its wheel shape, even when refrigerated. It isn't hard to get a well ripened Brie but the higher fat content Bries have shorter ripened shelf life than regular Brie, so they may be harder to find in some parts of the world.