Smear-ripened cheeses are washed in a brine with the primary purpose of encouraging the growth of desirable bacteria. Traditionally, these types of cheeses were produced either at lower elevations, closer to markets and ports, or at monasteries, where alcohol was produced. Monks used beer, wine and liquor in their brines, allowing them to create pungent, soft cheeses that were safer and could travel farther. The bacteria and yeast that are encouraged to develop on smear-ripened cheeses often produce orange to red colors on the surface and are the hallmark of pungent cheeses such as Muenster, Port du Salut, and Limburger. Today, the term smear-ripened, a.k.a. smear-rind, cheese lives mainly in the lexicon of cheese producers. For the rest of us, this category gets stripped of its historical significance and lumped in with a more inclusive category of washed-rind cheeses.
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