Chapter Five: Affinage, the Art of Aging Cheese
In the mid-morning, I stop in as David is moving and taking the Bon Anniversaires out of their hoops. The cheese has rested in its moulds for two days, and it is time to develop a new orange rind. Each wheel, although fully formed at this point, will age six months until reaching its full potential.
Before entering our main cheese cave, Bon Anniversaire will rest in the brine room. It’s the perfect environment for rind development to begin. At completely saturated humidity and a temperature of 50F, cheese cultures go wild. I walk into the brine room. The scent as I open the door is wonderful; it’s so … cheesy.
About a week later I don my hairnet, the orange shoes, a white apron, and head back into the creamery. As I enter the brine room, I can hardly find Joe there’s so much cheese in this room -- I finally spot him in the back washing the Bon Anniversaires. A white P. candidum culture bloom has formed just as Joe had hoped. This bloom will help to define the flavor. He begins to wash each cheese with a Saison morge; a mixture of cultures and beer. Wash. Flip. Wash. Flip. Wash. Flip. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
It is an unusual day outside. Oddly warm January temperatures create a fog that lays across the south pasture. The view of the pasture is beautiful. Our Creamery and our cheese caves are located in two different barns here on the farm. Once the cheese is ready to leave the brine room in the creamery, Joe and David load it into transportation boxes. They move the cheese across the farm to the caves, unloaded it and this is where it will luxuriate for many months.
What are cheese caves? The caves -- don’t be scared, they are not dark, there are no stalactites or stalagmites -- instead it’s more like a cheese-spa. Our caves are located in the farm’s original milking barn, built in the 1890’s and has a state-of-the art temperature and control system. In the early 1900’s this barn served as an up-island milk house and the other dairy farmers would bring milk here to then be distributed off island.
The cheese goes in a bit rough around the edges, but’s pampered with a combination of the right temperature and the perfect humidity. Then it’s checked on daily, to see if it needs anything. It’s turned over, washed gently, scrubbed on occasion, and comes out in perfect condition ready to be wrapped up and sent on its way.
Sincerely, until next time, when finish and wrap up the cheese,