It is calcium lactate crystals. It is safe to eat. On hard cheeses it is a sign that it is aged well and a fine gourmet cheese.
Those bits are called tyrosine, and they’re actually amino acid clusters that form with age. Tyrosine clusters are signs of a well-aged cheese, which is why you’ll find them in some of the world’s most loved cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, aged goudas, and mountain cheeses like gruyere.
Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid found mainly in casein, the dominant protein found in milk. The word itself is from the Greek tyros, meaning cheese.
Tyrosine lends a distinctive textural charm to cheese, and is a welcome interruption within the body of an otherwise smooth texture. Sometimes it even compliments the beverage you may be drinking with your cheese, as in the case of pairing a full-bodied stout with a super-aged cheddar; the crunchiness of the cheese somehow matches the fullness of the beer by contributing its own textural intensity.
Tyrosine is not to be confused with the crunchiness you can find in some washed-rind cheeses. Since this category of cheese is usually washed in some kind of salt water brine, residual salt crystals are often left behind on the crust of these cheeses. When you take a bite of rind and inner paste together, the crunchiness from the outside can be mistaken for existing on the inside.
Now go and impress your cheese-loving friends with your new vocabulary word!
For the Cheese Nerd here's more...
Summer at the tasting rooms are so fun! A lot of them have outdoor seating and they all have different atmospheres. Two summers ago, I started creating tasty cheese trays and snacks for the wineries. I change the cheese selections on our 3-Cheese Trays every season to keep them fresh and interesting. This summer I am adding an information sheet on the cheeses with wine and beer pairings as well as this blog. You can find our snacks in Woodinville, Seattle and on Orcas Island.
Tasting cheeses and wines that will work for most of the wineries and fit the season is a tough job, but I have a good time doing it. They say do what you love and I do!
Here is the cheese selection I chose for this summer and what inspired me along the way.
Cave Aged Gruyere by Le Gruyère
This nutty cheese made with cow's milk and aged 11 months in the caves of northern Switzerland
Pairs well with a fruity Chardonnay or a light red wine. Beer pairing of choice is an Imperial IPA.
Why I selected this cheese was because the flavors go perfect with Summer wines and because of Lori. Lori is our rock and she loves this cheese. At the office when one of us says anything about picking cheese she jumps up, with a big smile and says Cave Aged Gruyere. Lori is our Events and Office Manager. We love Lori as much as she loves this cheese! If you ever call the Chef Anne Marie office for a catering event or just to ask a question, ask Lori about this cheese.
Mild and buttery with a smooth texture, this sheep milk cheese is the one to reach for when the pairing wines such as Unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Vouvray. Try it with a Strawberry Cream Ale.
As you can see this goes with a number of white wines so for a Summer cheese, this was a no brainier.
When I had a close friend going through chemotherapy, she was advised no cows milk and was missing cheese. I found this and was amazed how close to cheddar this was. On the harder side of medium cheese and in the style of Gouda. It is one of my favorites!
By wedding this rich, creamy cheese to the berry and plum notes of Merlot, they have created a marriage of flavors destined
to make your taste buds say, "I do."
This is a great red wine cheese and pairs well with stout beer!
Bellavitano's come in a great variety of flavors and are always a hit. They are one of my all time favorites. The richness of the cheese coupled with the texture makes a great wine snack.