When that buttery, creamy slice of soft cheese is discovered in a corner of the refrigerator, we may wonder how important the Brie sell by date really is. If the Brie expiration date is flexible, it's good news for cheese lovers. Take a sniff and read on.
What Is Brie?
Nothing mysterious goes into Brie, but its place of origin is important. The soft cow's milk cheese from Brie, a region in northern France, has been served to royalty for centuries. It is made from unpasteurized whole milk to which rennet is added to produce quick curds before being inoculated with cheese culture.
The "Queen of Cheese" is also known as the "King of Cheese" and the "Prince of Cheese" due to its connections to Charlemagne in the 8th century and Louis XVI in the 19th century. Today, Brie is made all over the world, but only two varieties are officially certified and recognized by the French government. These are the very famous and popular Brie de Meaux and the stronger Brie de Melun, which are not available in the United States.
What About Exported Brie?
Certified French Brie is unstabilized during the maturation process over four to five weeks. Therefore, its shelf life is much shorter. However, this "real Brie" is only found in France.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration prohibits the import of cheeses made from unpasteurized milk if they are aged for fewer than 60 days. Therefore, the Brie cheese that's made in America is stabilized and never matures, giving it a much longer shelf life without any susceptibility to bacteriological infections.
How to Know When Brie is Ripe
Perfectly ripe Brie is firm on the outside but slightly bouncy to the touch on the inside. When the Brie is underripe, it's a bit stiffer with a center that's white and chalky. Overripe Brie is softer to the touch, even somewhat runny. When the rind has a white down dusting that's dotted with reddish spots, the cheese is fully mature and still edible. Some people are surprised to learn that the rind is perfectly safe to eat and that scraping it off is a pointless exercise.
How to Store and Serve Brie
Once it's cut open, store Brie wrapped in waxed paper or parchment paper (better than plastic) to allow the rind to breathe. Some say it should be placed in a container in the refrigerator, and others opt for the refrigerator cheese drawer.
You may choose to serve Brie on a cheese platter as an appetizer or at dinner as a pre-dessert course as is the French custom. Perhaps you may serve it as a snack. Remember to take Brie out of the refrigerator to rest at room temperature about an hour before serving to bring out the flavor.
What Is the Brie Expiration Date?
Use the Brie sell by date as a suggestion rather than a bible. When Brie hits the supermarket shelves, it still has two to three weeks to go in the aging process. For Brie, these are the dates food will reach its most flavorful peak. Stored properly, it's fine to carry on eating the Brie in the next week or so as well.
Eventually, if there are signs of mold or greenish-blue spores on the surface, discard it. Otherwise, cut a slice and have a look inside the cheese. Let your eyes and nose be your guide. A pleasant aroma reveals hints of moist earth, fresh mushrooms and raw milk, which can be described as an "almost barnyard profile." A darkened color or funky smell means it's time to throw it out.