Is brie vegetarian?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is brie vegetarian?” and will discuss how brie is made?

Is brie vegetarian?

No, brie is not a vegetarian cheese. Brie cheese is made of cow or goat milk and animal rennet that is why it is not suitable for vegetarians. However, most of the rennet used today are microorganism-fermented rennets and do not come from animal tissues, as they did before 1980. Therefore, there is a good chance of the brie cheese being vegetarian (2).

Bioengineered chymosin is associated with the creation of up to 70% of cheeses. Bioengineered enzymes save the lives of calves; it grants ethical issues for those people who are allergic to foods made with genetically engineered microorganisms (4).

What Is BRIE?

Among the specialty cheeses receiving high consumer interest are the mold surface-ripened cheese, Brie and Camembert. Both Brie and Camembert cheese are currently manufactured with Penicillium caseicolum. Initially, in cheese making, the starter bacteria produce typical lactic fermentation aroma compounds and the acid curd of young cheese. Mold-inoculated wheels of cheese are incubated under high humidities (80 to 95% RH) and moderately low temperatures (10 to 15°C) for ripening. The acidic conditions of the young curd allows the somewhat selective growth of Geotrichum sp., yeasts and certain gram-negative bacteria in the early stages of ripening (ca. 4 d). Ripening succession then involves the proliferation of Penicillium mycelia, which overgrows cheese surfaces during these stages of ripening (ca. 4 wk). Mold growth has been thought to play a major role in the production of flavor volatiles and texture modifications. As aging continues (to 12 wk), the mold is subsequently overgrown by Brevibacterium linens and related coryneforms to yield the yellowed crust, the distinct sulfury, characterizing flavors, and the soft textures of mature Brie and Camembert cheese (1).

Fluffy white skin and silky inside make Brie a true delicacy of extravagant splendor. For those who want their ice cream with a hint of nuttiness, this is the beverage for you. Mushrooms and sautéed butter give it a nutty, creamy flavor that lingers on the palate. Tempered Brie slices have a somewhat runny feel.

As a French cheese, Brie has long been prized for its unique flavor and has even been served to monarchs in the Middle Ages. Brie is a cheese that enhances its surroundings like color to a picture, and few other kinds of cheese can do this better than it.

Brie is a softer cheese, having lighter tones of cream and butter in comparison to Camembert’s richer flavors of mushrooms and herbs. It is possible to eat both since they are coated with white mold rinds, which are fully edible and packed with flavor.

The greatest way to enjoy Brie is with a glass of wine and some friends over a plate of toasted walnuts, honey, and plum chutney. Remove it from the fridge at least half an hour before serving to allow it to come to room temperature.

How is brie made?

Let the cheese take care of itself for the best results in terms of texture and flavor. For the flavor and texture to develop, you must allow the skin to mellow and mature.

Enzymes and rennet are added to the milk to help it coagulate and curdle, and the milk is pasteurized or raw. In addition to the white mold, a yeast culture is used to help it grow. Curd is sliced and ladled into molds when it has formed, and the excess whey is drained off. It is then carefully brined to avoid extra mold while also managing the acidity since too much would ruin the pleasant flavor of the product. Once the cheese has rested a week, the flavor and texture of the rind begins to develop. A ripe Brie often has an almost runny consistency after four to five weeks of maturation.

Depending on the kind of milk, raw or pasteurized milk might be used. For each cheese, rennet is used that is either vegetarian or animal. Check the label or ask the cheesemonger if you’re unclear whether organic brie has been pasteurized.

Before the 1980s, almost all rennet was extracted from calf stomachs or specific molds. In the 1980s, development of fermentation-produced chymosin met the challenge. Insertion of the calf genes responsible for chymosin (i.e., the active enzyme in rennet) production into molds resulted in the molds producing chymosin in a fermentation process. More than 90% of the rennet used today is fermentation-produced chymosin, and it has the advantage of being both kosher and halal approved. This is especially important for the sale of products derived from whey (2). Therefore, more than 90% of all cheese-making is vegetarian. 

Replacements for BRIE

If you’re wanting to substitute Brie with something different, then soft-ripened cheeses with their cohesive and fluffy rinds are your best bet.

Camembert, although stiffer and more flavorful than Brie, has many of the same virtues as that cheese. This white mold cheese has an earthy mushroom flavor and a tinge of caramelized butter, making it easy to confuse with its cousin. Camembert is also a mold surface-ripened cheese and manufactured with Penicillium caseicolum. Camembert , the most important surface mold-ripened variety, originated in Normandy, France, in the eighteenth Century. It is a small cheese ( ca . 10 cm diameter; 200–250 g) manufactured from cows’ milk (Fig. 3.9 ). Raw milk is used traditionally but industrial Camembert is now produced from pasteurized milk. A mesophilic starter (~0.1 %) is used and when the pH of the milk has fallen to ~6.1, rennet is added. Traditionally, the coagulum is not cut but is ladled into molds where drainage occurs. Traditionally, the cheeses are dry-salted and P. camemberti spores are sprayed on the surface although it is now industrial practice to inoculate the milk with mold spores and to brine-salt the cheeses. The surface of the cheese is allowed to dry at ambient temperature in a well ventilated room, after which the cheeses are transferred to a store at ~12 °C for 10–12 days for mold development. The cheeses are then packaged in waxed paper and placed in wooden or cardboard boxes prior to final ripening at 7 °C for 7–10 days (3).

If you’re looking for an indulgent cheese alternative, go no further than our Creamy White. Its powdery snow-like shell and creamy inside make it an excellent choice. A creamy treat, this white mold cheese has all the features of a smooth, buttery delight.

What about cheese prevents it from being considered vegetarian?

Rennet is an enzyme that helps curdle cheese in several kinds of cheese from Europe. Per The New Food Lover’s Companion, the fourth stomach of young animals (usually cows but sometimes sheep, goats, or pigs) is a frequent source of this enzyme. Animal rennets are prepared by extracting the dried (usually) or salted gastric tissue (referred to as vells) with 10 % NaCl and activating and standardizing the extract. Standard calf rennet contains ca. 60–70 RU/ml and is preserved by making the extract to 20 % NaCl and adding sodium benzoate or sodium propionate. A rennet unit (RU) is the amount of rennet activity that will coagulate 10 ml of milk (3).

Producers (particularly American producers) have switched from using animal rennet to using vegetarian or microbial rennet in recent years as vegetarian-friendly goods have grown in general acceptance. According to The New Food Lover’s Companion, they are derived from plants, microbes, and fungus rather than animal cells. More than 90% of the rennet used today is fermentation-produced chymosin fermented by molds (2).

How can you tell which cheeses are OK for vegetarians?

To stay away from the rennet, you’ll have to avoid cheese that doesn’t have the ingredients listed on it (say goodbye to a spoonful of Parmesan at the local Italian joint). Keep an eye out for rennet whether you’re shopping at the store or if you have access to supplies.

Animal rennet isn’t found in all cheeses, of course. Traditional methods of making whey-based dairy products, such as paneer, ricotta, yogurt, and cream cheese, do not need the use of rennet. In addition, as mentioned above, most of the rennets used today in the cheese industry (>90%) are produced by fermenting molds and therefore, are vegetarian (2). 

Besides, all acid-coagulated cheeses are vegetarian. Acidification is usually achieved by the action of a mesophilic starter but direct acidification is also practiced. The coagulum may or may not be cut or cooked during manufacture but the curds are not pressed. Acid-coagulated cheeses are characterized by a high-moisture content and are usually consumed soon after manufacture. Typical acid-coagulated cheeses are ricotta, cottage, cream cheese and queso blanco (3).

You may get a wide variety of “vegetarian-friendly” and “vegetarian-friendly” cheeses at specialized cheese stores and even in Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. As a result, it’s safe to eat for vegetarians and vegans. According to The Vegetarian Times, the phrase “enzymes” is sometimes thrown about, although it’s unclear exactly what it means. You’ll need to verify with the manufacturer to see whether the enzymes are animal-based.

Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.

Is calcimax vegetarian?

Is caldikind plus vegetarian?

Is Celin 500 vegetarian?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is brie vegetarian?” and discussed how brie is made?

References

  1. Karahadian, C., D. B. Josephson, and R. C. Lindsay. Contribution of Penicillium sp. to the flavors of Brie and Camembert cheese. J Dairy Sci, 1985, 68, 1865-1877. 
  2. Johnson, M. E. A 100-year review: cheese production and quality. J Dairy Sci, 2017, 100, 9952-9965.
  3. Fox, Patrick F., et al. Fundamentals of cheese science. New York: Springer US, 2017.
  4. Selamoglu, Z. Use of enzymes in dairy industry: a review of current progress. Archiv Razi Inst, 2020, 75, 131.