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What’s This Clear Liquid Seeping Out of My Hard Cheese?

Sometimes, when I cut into a piece of gouda or other hard cheese, some clear liquid seeps out. What is this, and is it safe to eat?
Ah, yes; “liquid gold” is what I call that. The first time I saw this liquid, early in my career with aged gouda, I assumed that the cheese was poorly handled. But I soon learned that the only thing wrong was my assumption.

This bit of cheese nectar is actually whey that has been trapped in the small eyes of the cheese. Sometimes when a cheese leaves the aging room, with its perfectly controlled temperature and humidity, the cheese can become unstable. The liquids will expand more quickly than the solids as the cheese warms up to its new environment. The liquid will push through the paste and either escape through the rind or, in this case, land in the eyelet of the cheese. It is perfectly natural and is not harmful in any way. In fact, don’t pass up the chance to dip your finger in that little eye and give it a taste. You might be pleasantly surprised by its sweet-salty quality and a nice fattiness on the palate. Its flavor is the result of the whey absorbing some of the salt from the brining process and some of the milk fat. It is better that this little droplet of moisture has been trapped in this tiny pocket rather than too much moisture being held within the paste of the cheese.

Feature Photo Credit: Menschen via Compfight cc

Juliana Uruburu

Juliana Uruburu is the cheese program director at the Pasta Shop markets, with locations in Berkeley and Oakland, California.

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