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Gin varietals range from floral, citrus, herbaceous to juniper forward in flavor.  The spirit is flavored by re-distilling the vodka base with botanicals. The botanicals include juniper, citrus peels, coriander, cardamom, cassia bark and more. The flavors of the bontanicals make gin an excellent pairing for cheese, complimenting the natural flavor profiles of a wide variety of cheeses.

Recommended Pairings

London Dry or Navy Strength + Pecorino

These juniper-forward gins make a great match for rich, fatty, and salty sheep milk cheeses in the pecorino category.  Even the underlying lanolin flavor of pecorino cheese matches beautifully with the strong juniper and citrus qualities.  A Tanqueray Ten Cocktail or a classic Gin & Tonic are both great cocktail options.  We recommend Pecorino Calcagno or Pecorino Ginepro (a pecorino actually steeped in balsamic vinegar & juniper berries, see below).

Photo from Madame Fromage

New Wave & Fresh + Bloomy Rind Goat Cheese

This gin is less juniper-forward and leads with predominantly floral and citrus qualities. This makes the New Wave an excellent pairing for fresh to bloomy rind goat cheese, especially when pairing with a cucumber Gimlet cockatil. The floral and citrus qualities of the fresher goat cheese mirror and compliment the qualities of the gin (see Capriole's Piper Pyramid below).

Genever & Double + Triple Cream Cheeses

This gin has forward flavors of lemon peel and fennel, which make it an excellent match for rich, bloomy rind cow milk cheeses that can also stand up to its rich, malty mouthfeel. We recommend making a French 75 for the more citrus-forward direction and an Old Fashioned for the more malty direction, and pairing it with Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam (see below).

Plymouth Gin + Soft Washed-Rind Cow Cheese

The plymouth gin is a powerful, juniper-forward style that can stand up to a spreadable washed rind cheese like Epoisses or spruce-bark wrapped Winnimere (see below). The recommended cocktail here is a Pink Gin.

Honey + Gin: A Perfect Pairing 

Honey serves as a wonderful bridge between cheese and gin. To find a lovely herbaceous honey to pair well, you can visit our Honey & Cheese Pairing Guide. We recommend Orange Blossom or Meadowfoam Honey varietals.

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Left to right: Cynar, Aperol, Strega, Montenegro, Cardamaro
Amaro is Amazing with Cheese
Our amaro and cheese pairing event with Chef Jenny Dorsey and Mixologist Matt Dorsey, allowed us to really dive into the amazing world of cheese and amaro pairings.  
Amaro is an Italian herbal liqueur that is often consumed as an after-dinner digestif. Its bitter-sweet, sometimes syrupy flavour pairs excellently with cheese. An added bonus is an alcohol content between 16% and 40% depending on the amaro, so you can get lusciously tipsy while you taste.
Below is our detailed, tested, and tried-and-true pairing recommendations.  Please replicate at home for your next dinner party. The pairings are listed in the order of enjoyment (from lighter-bodied to heavier-bodied).  

Pairing 1: Aperol + Amanteigado

What is so fabulous about this pairing is that the raw sheep milk thistle rennet from Portugal has a natural fruity, artichoke flavor imparted by the thistle, and buttery base from the fatty sheep milk cheese.  These characteristics pair beautifully with an aperol straight or aperol spritz (2 oz prosecco to 1.25 oz aperol, and splash of soda water).  Aperol is made from the herbaceous gentian root, rhubarb, and cinchona tree bark.

Pairing 2: Suze (or Strega) + Chevre d'Argental

Suze is a french liqueur made from the gentian root, and Strega is an Italian liqueur made of a combination of 70 herbs (including juniper, mint and fennel). Suze tastes very vegetal with pomelo citrus notes and gets its yellow hue from the gentian root, while the Strega is more coniferous and herbaceous and gets its yellow hue from saffron.   

The Chevre d'Argental is a uniquely milky, lactic, mushroom-like, and vegetal (asparagus) goat milk bloomy rind that leans more on the earthy than mineral side of the goat cheese flavor spectrum. This flavor profile makes this cheese very compatible with either type of liqueur.

Pairing 3: CynarEwephoria
Cynar is made of 13 herbs and plants, predominantly artichoke.  Nevertheless it does not have an artichoke flavor and leads with a light caramel and herbaceous flavor, finishing with bitter espresso. This is why it is a great match for the dense, crystalline Ewephoria sheep milk gouda, which has often been described as tasting like candy and caramelized walnuts.

Pairing 4: Amaro MontenegroOma

Amaro Montenegro is a secret blend of 40 herbs and plants, including vanilla, orange peels, and eucalyptus. Flavors of rose petals, dried orange peel, and cherry come through. Oma, a washed rind cow milk cheese from Jasper Hill Farm, is meaty and funky, with a rind reminiscent of peanuts. The herbaceous, floral, bitter and sour fruit notes are able to enhance vegetal and fruity characteristics in the cheese, making this a fascinating match.

Pairing 5: CardamaroGruyere Cheese Caramel

Cardamaro has a base of moscato wine that is infused with herbs, cardoon, and Roman thistle. Flavors of ginger, artichoke, and a touch of sweetness come through on the palate. Cheese caramel (a caramel infused with gruyere cheese) pairs nicely with the natural sweet and vegetal qualities of this lighter-bodied amaro. 

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Whiskey varietals are dynamic in flavor profile, even within their own categories.  There are a variety of whiskey processes that effect the final flavor:

  • Distillery:  The terroir of the distillery (location and the design of the production rooms) really shapes how a whiskey tastes. 
  • Peat: The level of smokiness of the whisky is determined by how the peat is burned to dry the barley in the whiskey recipe.
  • Fermentation: The length of time the liquid is fermented can affect how nutty and spicy the whiskey is.
  • The Size of the Stills: Small stills mean more liquid contact with copper during the distilling process, resulting in lighter, floral, and fruity whiskies.  Larger stills produce a heavier in flavor.
  • Maturation Cask and Length: The style of cask - whether it is European or American oak, or if the cask has been toasted and re-used, all effect the flavor profile. Like cheese each whiskey has its peak moment of maturation, which is a decision on the part of the craftsmen.
  • Craftsmen Skill: The whiskey craftsmen must take all these factors into consideration. Like specialty cheese making, it is a craft worth mastering to get desired results.

To explore whisky by flavor, we recommend visiting The Whisky Exchange

Recommended Pairings

Bourbon + Clothbound Cheddar 

This whiskey style has sweeter notes of caramel and vanilla and can be described as softer in flavor. We recommend pairing this with a clothbound cheddar style, like Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, that is grassy, bright, and sharp with a caramelized nutty flavor. Round out the experience with some sweet Italian sausage and apples.

 

Rye & Dense + Crystalline Cheese 

Rye and Dense whiskey is characteristically more spicy and full-bodied with flavor notes of earth. Rye whiskies pair well with harder cheese with a crystalline texture, like Gouda or Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s dynamic flavor is also a great match for rich cheese, like a Camembert-style.

Scotch + Blue Cheese 

Intensely smoky and pairs great with a Stilton, Roquefort or Bayley Hazen Blue (see below), scotch is a natural pairing with blue cheese. The minerality of a blue balances out the smokiness of the scotch.

Irish Whiskey + Bloomy Rind Cheese 

Expect a more light, floral, and clean in flavor with hints of vanilla and citrus from this style of whiskey. Our recommendation is to pair it with rich, soft cheeses, like Brie, Camembert, or Lil' Hosmer (see below). Clothbound cheddar can also work wonderfully here.

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Over the past thirteen years, I've taught numerous classes on how to make cheese.  My philosophy on understanding cheese - or any specialty food or drink for that matter - is that to understand the fundamentals on how cheese is made is to understand how to best enjoy each style of cheese.  The more we know about the processes in which our food is made, the easier it will be to select, store, and serve.

The Fundamentals of Cheesemaking

About ten years ago, I developed a comical acronym to aide in the understanding on how cheese is made:

T : Temperature

E : Environment

A : Acidity

T : Time

S : Salts/Minerals

Temperature

Temperature references the temperature of the milk during cheesemaking as well as the ripening or aging of cheese. Depending on the temperature of the milk, certain starter temperature sensitive bacteria present in the milk will develop the flavor profile of the final cheese. Temperature also affects the rate of fermentation and the types of starter bacteria that thrive.

Environment

Environment can also be explained as the terroir or taste of place.  If the cheese is made with raw, un-pasteurized milk, the natural bacteria in the milk will contribute to the final flavor of the cheese.  Each cheese aging cave also has its own unique flora dependent on the style of cheese being produced. This environmental terroir is often a blend of the cheesemaking manipulating the milk through store bought starter bacteria and working with the direct natural environment that creates a unique flavor profile of cheese.

Acidity

Fundamentally, the acidity level of cheese refers to the conversion of lactose sugars into lactic acid, thus separating the proteins and fats from the water content of the milk. This happens through a combination of the starter bacteria acidifying the milk and through the addition of rennet, an enzyme derived from mushrooms, thistles, or the stomach-lining of a newborn dairy animal.

The enzyme rennet dramatically alters the chemical composition of milk, making the protein chains bond together as a protein matrix that traps fat, mineral and vitamins to create the curd body of the cheese. The bond ignites a polar/non-polar reaction, where the non-polar matter in milk (curd components) binds together while expelling the polar matter in milk (water, whey protein, and minerals) to create curds and whey. The rate of acidification is dependent on the temperature of the milk and curds during the cheesemaking process and the quantity of rennet enzyme added to the milk.

Time

Cheese is a diligent waiting game for the cheesemaker.  From fresh to aged styles, the rate in which the curd is formed and the cheese is aged affects the final flavor and texture of the cheese. A fresh goat cheese is produced anywhere from 48 to 72 hours, while aged, hard cheeses can take months to years to get the desired cheese texture and flavor. 

Time also refers to the rate of fermentation.  Each cheese has a peak of optimal flavor and texture, and this is dependent on the rate of fermentation, and understanding the ideal time to slow down the aging process to sell and consume the final product.

Salts/Minerals

Salt is the essential preserver.  It slows down and controls the rate of fermentation in cheeses, it prevents unwanted molds and bacteria for propagating the cheese interior and exterior.  It is applied minimally to liberally - fresh cheeses don't require as much salt as they are eaten within a few day.  The more aged the cheese is, the more salt is required to regulate the fermentation and aging process to achieve the desired result. 

Calcium salts (Calcium Chloride) naturally present in the milk are also extremely important in the conversion of lactose into lactic acid, and in the building of the protein matrix. Calcium salts often get destroyed in ultra-pasteurized (heat-treated) milk from the grocery store which makes it not ideal for cheesemaking.

Start your cheesemaking journey with Homemade Mascarpone.
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One of our local beer event partners, Strongrope Brewery, has dived deep with us  on recommended beer and cheese pairings. The secret on how to pair beer and cheese is all in the complimentary flavors.  Beer, because of its effervescence and natural flavors of bread and yeast, makes it an even easier pairing than wine and cheese! Beer and cheese don't often clash - rather, if you are slightly off the mark with a pairing one will simply overpower the other.
Extra Pale Ale, 4.7%
A light, floral and citrusy beer, this pairs nicely with fresh goat cheese (chevre) and accents both the grassy and bright tangy character of the cheese and beer.
Grain Head: Blonde Ale, 4.9%
The herbal grassy character is enhanced by a fatty semi-firm sheep milk cheese like Ossau Iraty. The crispness of the beer can cut through any lingering fat.
Eerie To Hudson: ESB, 5.6%
The slightly sharp, nutty and mustardy character of cheddars like Grafton Cheddar accent the deeper nutty and sweet characters of the ESB, but the drier malt and hoppy aspects of the beer allows it to balance out.
Wolf Dragon: Dry Hopped Saison, 4.7%
The Hoppy Saison acts as a foil and balance out the intensity of washed rind cheeses like Arethusa Diva or Willoughby. The Diva is at times soft, sweet and nutty and is a much more complex and aggressive cheese so it requires that contrast. At the same time the floral grassy character of the beer brings out some of those same characters from the cheese.
Rust Belt Monsters: Imperial Red Ale, 8%
Rich, fatty, nutty and complex goat milk gouda cheese like Black Betty demands something robust to stand up to it. Rust Belt Monsters is the beer of choice with its deep caramel and toffee characters and higher alcohols which allows the beer to hold its own and compliment this cheese perfectly.

 

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Red wine and cheese is the classic go-to pairing combination.  The complex flavor profiles of red wines make them a playground for cheese pairing. Generally Pinot Noir and Syrah are both safe choices for pairing with cheese.  Light to medium-bodied reds can always find their cheese match. Keep reading to learn about our favorite red wine and cheese pairings. 
The Seeker Red Blend 

Grapes: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 25% Syrah

This spicy red wine blend from the Colchagua and Maipo Valleys works wonderfully with meaty cheeses with a buttermilk tang.  The wine is round and generous, with velvety tannins surrounding flavors and aromas of blackberry, cherry, and vanilla that linger on the finish.

Cheeses to Pair With:

CRAGGY RANGE Te Kahu Gimblett Gravels Vineyard
Grapes: 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot
The fruit in this New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon blend is vibrantly fruity. The aroma and flavor profile of the wine is complex - with notes of blackberry, cinnamon, and minerals. The tannins are delicate, providing structure to the wine but no overpowering the flavor profile, making it a great cheese pairing wine.

Cheese to Pair With: 
  • Semi-Firm to Firm Sheep Cheese with a Natural Rind, preferably a basque style, like Vermont Shepherd's Invierno.  This style of cheese is buttery, robust in milk fat, and rich with notes of caramel and honey and the wine's fruitness brings out the blackberry notes of each.
  • Semi-Firm to Firm Cow Cheese with a Natural or Washed Rind, preferably an alpine style like Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Beaufort.

ST. FRANCIS WINERY & VINEYARDS Sonoma County Merlot

 Grapes: 100% Merlot

This Sonoma County 100% Merlot should counteract any bad press Merlot has received after the infamous scene in the movie, Sideways. The wine is smooth and elegant with classic flavors and aromas of cherry, chocolate and plum, which make it an excellent decadent pairing with a dense, nutty cheese and dark chocolate.

Cheese to Pair With: 

Medici Ermete Lambrusco I Quercioli Dolce 

Grapes: 100% Lambrusco

This effervescent sweet red wine is beautiful with blue and triple cream cheeses.  It's aggressive bubbles lift rich, buttery cheeses off the palate so they dance in your mouth. From the Reggio Emilia province, the grapes are a blend of Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Marani.

Cheese to Pair With: 

  • Triple Cream Cow Cheese like Delice de Bourgogne or Brillat Savarin.
  • Balanced Blue Cheeses like Bayley Hazen Blue and Fourme D'Ambert.

Fonseca Bin 27 Porto

Grapes: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Tinta Amarela

Port is a magical pairing for cheese, and this particular bottle from Portugal is aged for four years in neutral wood vats before bottling. This sweet wine tastes of fresh, rich blackberry and cassis. It has a balanced structure, with a velvety, luscious mouthfeel and smooth tannins.

Cheese to Pair With: 

  • Triple Cream Cow Cheese like Delice de Bourgogne or Brillat Savarin. Make sure there are nice and ripe.
  • Firm, Flavorful Farmhouse Cheddar like Cabot Clothbound or Keen's.
  • Balanced Blue Cheeses like Bayley Hazen Blue, Fourme D'Ambert, and Stilton.
How Should Red Wine Be Served? 

Red wines should be warmer than the refrigerator but not necessarily room temperature.  62 to 68 degrees F is best, with certain red wines like the Lambrusco better served between 57 and 59, due to its effervescence. 

Where Can I buy These Wines? 

Enter the wine name and your zip code in this handy wine store locator search engine.

How Should Cheese Be Served?

Cheeses should be served at room temperature, below 70 degrees.  If you do not store your cheese in a Cheese Grotto at 70 or below, then you should take your cheese out of the refrigerator at least an hour beforehand. The flavors and textures of cheese open up the more it warms up, so you can really maximize the pairing experience.

My rule of thumb is to serve from mildest to strongest in flavor, so that you can do each cheese justice.  Also, you can dress up the cheese board with accouterments that serve to enhance the wine and cheese pairing.  For example, if notes of blackberry are prevalent in both the cheese and wine, consider adding blackberries to the serving board in order to enhance the experience even further.  
How Should You Store Your Cheese in Fall and Winter?
These is the time of year to store The Cheese Grotto on the kitchen counter, serving the cheese over 7 to 10 days, since the kitchen stays at under 70 degrees F. It is recommended to move cheese to a refrigerator for weeks or month-long storage.  The Grotto will regulate the humidity and airflow so that the cheese stays fresh for months in the fridge. 
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How Waxed Rind Cheese Is Different From Natural Rind Cheese
Pressed cheeses can be aged by either an aerobic (absorbing oxygen) or anaerobic method (not absorbing oxygen). Natural rind, bloomy rind, and washed rind cheeses are all aged with the aerobic method - their rinds are exposed to oxygen supply in the cheese aging cave.  Waxed rind cheeses, however, are pressed cheeses dipped and sealed in wax before aging.  Due to this lack of exposure to oxygen, the flavor profile of a waxed rind cheese is quite distinct from natural rind styles. Some of the most common waxed rind cheeses are traditional Dutch Gouda styles. The texture of waxed rind cheeses can range from semi-firm, supple, and melt-able to dense, crystalline, and crumbly.  
Origins of Waxed Rind Cheese

Waxed Rind Gouda Cheese from the Netherlands, particularly Edam cheese, is one of the most popular category of cheeses in the world. Gouda has been produced in the Netherlands since the 12th Century and has been traded with merchants since the Middle Ages.  The function of the waxed rind made it easy to transport during the warmer months before refrigeration and to stack for long distances. The waxed rind also served as a protective layer from external pests.  These practical factors, along with the delicious and varied texture of waxed rind styles, resulted in the centuries of success we see today.  

Factors That Effect Ripening

Cheesemakers that specialize in waxed rind cheese production also inoculate the cheesemaking milk with starter cultures and bacteria that will develop the best flavor in the anaerobic, sealed environment.  Those starter cultures, coupled with the rennet enzyme that continues to convert lactose into lactic acid results in the waxed rind cheeses we enjoy today. The curd is cut, usually heated to release more moisture, and then pressed into dense, fresh wheels before being dipped in wax and placed into a cool, humid cave to age properly.

Proper Humidity

Waxed rind cheese still requires a high humidity environment in order to age properly. Recommended humidity levels for a cheese cave are 90 to 98% humidity.

Best Way to Store Waxed Rind Cheese

The Cheese Grotto was designed specifically with this style of cheese in mind. The Cheese Grotto provides that balance of humidity, airflow, and natural materials to allow waxed rind cheese to thrive. 

If the Grotto is out of your budget currently, we recommend you consult the 3 Best Ways to Store Cheese article!

How to Serve Waxed Rind Cheese

It is always, always recommended to let your cheese come to room temperature before you enjoy it.  The experience is so vastly different, it is a shame to do otherwise.  The rind is not edible (unless you enjoy eating wax), so it is recommended when cutting pieces to serve to minimize the wax rind on each piece (see Beemster Gouda below).

Pairing Food and Wine with Waxed Rind Cheese

Waxed Rind Cheese is a vast category, with flavor and texture profiles ranging from milky and grassy to dense and caramelized. We've found many of the medium-aged goudas pair well with Pinot Grigio, as outlined here. Roasted nuts, dried cherries, and a smooth bourbon whiskey is a great combination for the denser, caramelized styles of waxed rind styles.

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What Makes a Natural Rind Cheese

Natural rind cheeses are semi-firm to firm pressed curd cheeses that have been aged in open air in a cheese cave. Fresh wheels of pressed curds are usually given an initial brine (salt-water solution) or dry salt rub on the exterior, and then are flipped once a week to promote even maturation on both sides of the cheese. The exterior of the cheeses are often rubbed with a cheese brush, which controls the development molds from overtaking the rind.  The rinds are often brown and silver in hue, with a mottling of white to brown molds.  Some popular natural rind styles are French-style tommes, like tomme de savoie or American counterparts like Twig Farm Goat Tomme (above) or Treadway Creek (below). The rinds on natural rind cheeses are edible - and they often have a flavor of the cave - an earthy, musty, deep mushroom flavor.

Origins of Natural Rind Cheese

Each cheesemaking country has its own styles of natural rind cheeses - and since the category is very broad, there are many stories on how this style of cheese began. Essentially, natural rind cheese is the most simple way to age pressed wheels of cheese with minimal maintenance except the flipping and brushing of the wheels.  

Sub-category of Natural Rind - Dry Rind

These are cheeses rubbed in lard or oil during the aging process, creating a thin layer of protection and controlling mold growth.  Examples of this are Parmigiano-Reggiano (oil-rubbed) and Clothbound Cheddar styles (traditionally lard-rubbed). 

Factors That Effect Ripening

Cheese mites are commonly found on natural rind cheeses, and can be identified as the microscopic organisms resembling brown dust particles that make their way into the natural rind of the cheese (see Mimolette cheese rind below).  It is often a mystery how cheese mites find their way into a natural cheese cave - a sealed and sanitized cave is as likely to have them as a rustic cheese cave would.  The mites love the cool, damp atmosphere of the cave and can actually contribute to the final texture and flavor of the cheese by digging additional holes in the rind for more aeration. The best way to control the mites is to brush and flip the cheese once a week, and clean the cheese cave aging shelves regularly.  

Proper Humidity

Natural rind cheeses require high humidity so that their rinds do not become too dry and crack. During the aging process, 90 to 98% humidity is ideal.  

Best Way to Store Natural Rind Cheese

The Cheese Grotto was designed specifically with this style of cheese in mind. The Cheese Grotto provides that balance of humidity, airflow, and natural materials to allow specialty natural rind cheese to thrive, even when it is a cut wedge. You'll notice the rind will keep developing if the Grotto is stored on the kitchen counter or in the fridge.

If the Grotto is out of your budget currently, we recommend you consult the 3 Best Ways to Store Cheese article!

How to Serve Natural Rind Cheese

It is always recommended to let your cheese come to room temperature before you enjoy it.  The experience is so vastly different, it is a shame to do otherwise.  And, of course, serve the cheese with its beautiful rind full of flavors of mushrooms, minerals, and earth - it's nature's compliment to the paste of the cheese and it is interesting to taste both with and without the rind to see what you enjoy most.

Pairing Food and Wine with Natural Rind Cheese

Natural rind cheese often pairs well with white to medium-bodied red wines.  If the natural rind cheese is more grassy and melt-able, go ahead and pair it with a funky white wine or a light-bodied red.  If the natural rind cheese is more dense, aged, and nutty, then the natural rind cheese can often stand up to a medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Syrah. 

Garrotxa cheese rind, featured above.

 

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Cheese Grotto - Journal by Jessica Sennett - 1M ago

The Vast World of Blue Cheese

Often associated with one characteristic blue flavor, blue cheese comes in all types of textures and variations of flavor.  The density of the cheese can range from creamy and buttery to crumbly, which showcases the blue mold in a flavor profile range of subtle and grassy to mineral and piquante. 

Origins of Blue Cheese

The blue mold found in is blue cheese is often penicillium roqueforti, a fungus whose name originates from the town of Roquefort, where Roquefort cheese is produced. A secondary popular blue fungus used in cheesemaking is called penicillium glaucum, and the two molds are often inoculated into the milk in tandem at the beginning of the cheesemaking process.

Recent studies hypothesize that the origin story of penicillium roqueforti in cheese is linked back to a plant pathogen of rye, which made its way into the flour and then the baked bread that was left near sheep milk cheese in an aging cave in Roquefort.  (See Forbes article) The fungus is also widespread in nature - it can be found in soil, decaying matter, and plants. 

Factors That Effect Ripening

In cheese, the blue mold only starts to grow when exposed to oxygen, which explains the signature spearing of holes through blue cheese wheels before they are aged in open air in a cave.

 

You can view the speared holes in the rind of the tall wheel of Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese, above.

Proper Humidity

Once cut, blue cheese holds a delicate paste that requires high humidity levels to retain its signature characteristics. We recommend storing blue cheese in 80 to 90% humidity levels to be able to preserve the style for longer.

Dry Environment

Blue cheese wedges, when stored in a drier environment, will become more crumbly- thus making them more spicy with blue mold flavor over time.  If they dry out, the blue cheese can certainly still be used for sprinkling over salads, or broiling in stuffed figs.

Best Way to Store Blue Cheese

The Cheese Grotto was designed specifically with this style of cheese in mind. The Cheese Grotto provides that balance of humidity, airflow, and natural materials to allow specialty blue cheese to thrive. You'll notice that the paste of the cheese will retain its texture and profile if the Grotto is stored on the kitchen counter or in the fridge.

If the Grotto is out of your budget currently, we recommend you consult the 3 Best Ways to Store Cheese article!

How to Serve Blue Cheese

It is always recommended to let your cheese come to room temperature before you enjoy it. The experience is so vastly different, it is a shame to do otherwise.  

Pairing Food and Wine with Blue Cheese

Blue cheese is an experience unto itself on a cheese board, and is complimented by juicy fruits and prosciutto. Blue Cheese's classic pairing is a port wine (think Stilton and Port) which has the body and viscosity to stand up to the blue.  We also recommend Lambrusco sparkling wine, as the bubbles simply lift the blue off the palate (think buttery Bayley Hazen Blue or Fourme D'Ambert with Lambrusco). Chocolate is also a classic pairing for blue cheese, which you can read a little more about here.

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A Stinky Cheese for a Serious Cheese Lover

Strong in aroma, but varied in flavor and texture, washed rind cheeses are for the serious cheese lover.  For some people, the more stinky the washed rind cheese the better, and we definitely applaud them for their adventurous palate.

But what gives washed rind cheese its signature rind color and aroma? The exterior of the cheeses are washed with salt-water solution (brine) that is occasionally blended with beer, wine, and cider for additional flavor characteristics.  This consistent washing of a brine solution can happen once a day, once a week, or once a month - and the washing attracts salt-loving bacteria called haleophiles. These salt-loving bacteria give washed rind cheeses their distinct orange hue and pungent aroma.  A popular haleophile bacteria found in washed rind cheeses is called b.linens, but it is important to note that there are a variety of salt-loving bacteria at work on the rind of a washed rind cheese.

Featured in this photo: Winnimere from Jasper Hill Farm

Origins of Washed Rind Cheese

One of the origins of washed rind cheese began with Trappist monks who had also taken up the production of Trappist ale in their monasteries. The production of beer and cheese was started as an additional source of funds for monasteries.  An example of this is the Belgian Chimay beer and Chimay cheese started in 1862.  The monks would transform fresh, non-soured milk into curd with cultures and enzymes and then drain the cheese in forms to make them dense enough to wash with a Chimay beer and salt solution as they ripened in their caves for a few weeks.  

Factors that Effect Ripening

Since the milk used in making washed rind cheese was fresh and non-soured (unlike the soured, acidic milk housewives used for Camembert), it naturally attracted the right salt-loving bacteria.  The acidity level of the curd and milk when making cheese is essential to attracting the right type of bacteria, molds, and fungus.

The longer term origins of washed-rind styles also came from a preservation mentality - salt slows down and regulates the rate of fermentation in foods, and so naturally by washing cheeses in salt-water solutions, they could keep their cheese fresher for longer.

Proper Humidity

Soft, spreadable washed rind cheeses like Willoughby, Epoisses, or Taleggio often have a very sticky rind, so they require higher levels of humidity in order to preserve that delicate sticky quality. We recommend storing the cheese in a humid climate of 80% to preserve the integrity of the rind.

Featured in this photo: Fontina Val D'Aosta

Dry Environment

The denser style of washed rind cheeses such as Raclette and Fontina can withstand dryer climates, but their rind does have a tendency to crack and lose its signature characteristics when stored under 80% humidity.

Best Way to Store Washed Rind Cheeses

The Cheese Grotto was designed specifically with this style of cheese in mind. The Cheese Grotto provides that balance of humidity, airflow, and natural materials to allow washed rind cheese to thrive. You'll notice the rind will keep its signature texture and flavor if the Grotto is stored on the kitchen counter or in the fridge.

If the Grotto is out of your budget currently, we recommend you consult the 3 Best Ways to Store Cheese article!

How to Serve Washed Rind Cheeses

It is always, always recommended to let your cheese come to room temperature before you enjoy it.  The experience is so vastly different, it is a shame to do otherwise.  And, of course, serve the cheese with its beautiful rind full of flavors of peanuts, hay, and earth - it's nature's compliment to the paste of the cheese which is often more subtly creamy and meaty than its pungent rind counterpart. 

Pairing Food and Wine with Washed Rind Cheese

Washed rind cheese often pairs well with white and medium-bodied red wines.  If the washed rind cheese is more creamy, spreadable and briney, we recommend a medium-bodied, funky, mineral Pinot Grigio (see Pinot Grigio and Cheese Pairing Notes Here).  If the washed rind cheese is little older and denser with deep nuttiness and notes of garlic, a juicy, berry pinot noir is always a good choice.

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