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Cheese Mites

By Chris Williams on February 8, 2012.

With around 45000 species, there is pretty much a mite for everything, including cheese.   Their presence in a cheese curing room could both be a good and a bad thing.  Some French and German styles of cheese (mimolette and milbenkase respectively) wouldn’t have their characteristic ‘piquancy’ without the action of these mites. So what makes for these unique flavors?  (I’ve not tried either of these btw) Well, these cheeses are covered with a brownish powder made up of both live and dead mites, mite skins, and a little bit of poo for good measure.  All I can say is yum!!  Maybe I’ll just stick with Cabot after all because I’ve never once had to brush off a block of Cabot cheddar.  One place for sure that never had a problem with cheese mites was right here, (sorry I couldn’t resist) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3KBuQHHKx0

In past times, colonies of cheese mites living in blocks of old cheese was pretty much the norm, but more modern cheese making methods with better overall sanitation have greatly reduced these infestations. http://www.ontariocheese.org/cheese_safety/mites

While large cheese producers have adopted an integrated approach (temperature control, strict sanitation, regulatory, etc.) to keep mites in check, there seems to be a resurgence of cheese mite infestations among producers of ‘artisan’ (small batch, handmade, etc.) cheese.

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