Welcome to the world of cheese mites, where the tiny things that are often overlooked play a significant role in the creation of some of the UK's most mouth-watering cheeses. Cheese mites are fascinating little creatures that are often found in aged cheeses. Although they are barely visible to the naked eye, they are an essential part of the natural process that occurs during the aging of cheese. In this article, we'll take a closer look at cheese mites and explore their role in cheese-making.
Cheese mites are small, soft-bodied insects that are part of the Acari family. They live and breed on the surface of aged cheeses, feeding on the proteins and fats in the cheese. As the mites feed, they break down the cheese's surface, releasing a range of complex flavours and aromas that are unique to each cheese.
One of the most famous cheeses that is known to be infested with cheese mites is the Mimolette cheese. Mimolette is a hard cheese that is produced in the north of France. It has a distinctive orange-coloured rind that is covered in cheese mites. The mites give the cheese a unique flavour profile that cannot be replicated with any other cheese-making technique.
Cheese mites are also an essential part of the production of the Stilton cheese. Stilton cheese is a semi-soft cheese that is produced in the UK. During the production process, the cheese is pierced with stainless steel needles, which allows air to enter the cheese. The cheese mites then colonize the surface of the cheese, creating small tunnels throughout the cheese. This allows air to circulate through the cheese, resulting in a distinctive blue mold that is characteristic of Stilton cheese.
The presence of cheese mites in aged cheese is a sign of quality and authenticity. Cheeses that are made with pasteurized milk and do not have mites on their surface are often considered to be inferior in taste and texture. This is because the natural process of cheese aging has been disrupted, and the flavours and aromas that are produced by the mites are missing.
Although cheese mites may seem like a nuisance, they play an essential role in creating some of the world's most delicious cheeses. They are a testament to the art and science of cheese-making and the unique flavours and aromas that can be produced through natural processes.
In conclusion, cheese mites are a fascinating and essential part of the cheese-making process. They play a significant role in creating the unique and complex flavours that are characteristic of some of the UK's most famous cheeses. If you're a cheese lover, next time you enjoy a piece of aged cheese, take a moment to appreciate the tiny, but mighty, cheese mites that have made it possible!