So you’re opening your fridge to go for the usual hunt, check and see what’s inside and prepare a meal worthy of the Gods. You take a look at the shelves, and they are, obviously, full of cheese—wheels of parmesan, blocks of cheddar, and who knows what else is in there. You settle on some orange goodness, the cheddar, but as you make your way to the table, you notice something.
Some white spots have appeared on your cheese, and you begin to worry. Mold you can deal with, but upon closer inspection and a crunchy bite, you discover you have some sort of little salt rocks in your cheese. And they’re not that bad! What you just found are crystals – cheese crystals. But you may not be educated in such things, so your worries make you go for some research. Well, we’re here, we got the knowledge. Let’s get started.
What are Cheese Crystals?
Cheese crystals are nothing to be afraid of; they are your friend and a friend of your cheese as well. The simple answer is, they are leftovers of proteins that have detached from the fat and left a so-called crystal behind. See when the cheese is made, the proteins and the fat bond into groups that are called a curd. When time passes, and the cheese ages, these proteins break off from these groups, and like we already said, leave behind a crystal.
In this case, they leave behind Tyrosine crystals. These can be found inside of the cheese and usually make their home in some Swiss or Romano cheeses. The other kind can be found on the inside and outside of the cheese, and it’s called a Calcium Lactate Crystal. They are created when the good bacteria in cheese break the lactose down into lactic acid. This lactic acid combines with the calcium, and we get, drum roll please… well, a Calcium Lactate Crystal. The name could be more creative, we admit.
Now obviously if the word crystal is used you can be sure that we’re talking about a mineral. So in a sense, yes, when your cheese ages enough it will create a collection of rocks within itself. But don’t worry, the glorious taste isn’t affected, it may even be magnified!
Calcium Lactate VS Tyrosine
Both of these types of crystals are a welcomed surprise if you find them in your cheese. The kind of cheese you have can affect which ones you see. The reason for that is simple; cheeses come in different shapes and sizes. And aside from the form and size, they come in various types of densities.
Calcium Lactate crystals are usually found in Parmesan or a Gouda. Like we said already, they can be found on the inside and out, which means that they are sometimes confused with mold. Make sure to educate yourself in crystals, so you don’t make the mistake of throwing it away. Mold is usually on the outside before it makes its way on the inside, so if you think you found mold on the inside of your cheese, think again.
And make sure you check the crunchiness. If it’s crunchy and hard, it isn’t molded. With that warning out of the way, we move on to the Tyrosine Crystals. They can be found in Swiss or Romano cheese, Parmesan, among others. They exist on the inside only and are firmer, bigger, and brighter. The taste that they will give you doesn’t depend on the type of cheese or the type of crystal. They can vary between salty and sweet even if they’re not sodium or sugar. That’s the beauty of minerals, we suppose.
Cheese crystals are now quite popular, as we discovered that they can make cheese even better, but that that wasn’t always the case. Cheesemakers of the past tried their best to avoid these beauties because, well, if you’re trying to sell a product, you probably won’t do well with a lesson on crystals and mold mid-sale. Heck, many didn’t even know the difference themselves! All in all, if you find some white spots on the inside or outside of your cheese, worry not. You could be in for a crunchy treat that may even add an extra flavor to your already fantastic cheese experience!