Name: Port Salut
Producer: Société Anonyme des Fermiers Réunis or S.A.F.R.
Category: washed rind, semi-firm
Origin: Brittany, France
Milk Type: pasteurized cow
Culture Type: animal rennet
Aging: one month, brushed with salt brine regularly
Aroma: milky, mild fruity notes
Appearance: bright orange dappled rind, buttery golden interior
Texture: velvety, with a supple rind
Flavor: tangy, buttery, clean finish
I’ve never really been a fan of acid-washed jeans, but I’ve always had a place in my heart for washed rinds. Cheeses in this category are bathed or rubbed with various liquids (such as brine, beer, brandy, oil, or whey) during the aging process. This added liquid keeps the cheese moist, causing the rind to be soft and pliable. Washing the rind also stimulates growth of bacteria which imparts richer flavors.
You’re surely familiar with another common washed rind cheese–muenster (a favorite of punsters), but when it comes to eating, I reach for a creamy wedge of Port Salut. This cheese comes from the Brittany region of France and was originally crafted by monks in the early 1800s. Today, Port Salut is mostly produced by large corporate creameries, but It. Is. Delicious. The brightly colored rind is hard to resist while I let it sit on the counter and come to room temp. When I see the golden center start to ooze out of the rind a bit, I dig in with my knife, smell the milky aroma, and I’m ready to smear.
If you’re trying to impress company, spread the silky cheese on toasted slices of a crusty multigrain bread and then top with delectable shavings of preserved walnuts. (Have you had preserved walnuts? They are basically a gift of caramelly, nutty goodness from the gods.) The sweetness of preserved walnuts complements the tangy cheese. Pour a few glasses of an acidic Champagne Brut and you have yourself a decadent treat.
When I’m sharing my snacks with the couch and my three cats, though, I like to counterbalance the milky cheese with a bag of cracked pepper potato chips and some pear cider. Sipping on a sweeter drink brings out the fruit tones of the Port Salut, while the cracked pepper provides a subtle warmth. (Tonight I’m drinking this and catching up on Broad City episodes).
-Julia Ricciardi graduated from a liberal arts college in a small Midwestern town, where she majored in studio art and educational studies. But, if you ask her where she learned the truly important stuff, she’ll tell you two places: in the kitchen and at Girl Scout camp. (Have you ever experienced the joy of a banana boat with melted chocolate straight out of a campfire?) Julia’s dedicated to changing the world and her career in youth development surely helps her accomplish that goal. However, she knows that cheese can also change the world. Once you’ve savored a nutty, 3-year aged Gouda from The Netherlands, life is never the same.