Mysteries of the Cheese Cave
My blog friend Will went to a cheese making workshop in southern New Hampshire last night. It sounds like it was very well done- Will certainly seems to have had a good time. It occurred to me that I haven't blogged about making cheese in ages. It's not that I haven't been making cheese- I've turned out a whole bunch of Camembert over the summer. I guess that it's just more fun to blog about learning to make cheese than it is to blog about making the same cheese recipe yet again.
My previous postings on cheese making have all been about the cooking part of making cheese. I haven't really talked much about aging it. The picture at the top of the post is my cheese cave. It's actually a wine chiller. You can see the racks for the wine bottles on top of the cave. Leon made plexiglass shelves for me to put the cheese on. You can see four rounds of Camembert, a red wax-covered round of Gouda, a pan of water for humidity, and a thermometer/hygrometer combo.
(Aside: the Gouda is the first that I have tried with my raw cow's milk. It will be a while before it is sufficiently aged to try- I'll probably blog about the results later.)
The cheese cave must control both temperature and humidity for proper aging. The temperature part is easy. The wine chiller maintains a perfect 50°F- just the right temperature for aging both the Camembert and the Gouda. The humidity is trickier. The pan of water helps- but that only brings the relative humidity up to about 60%. The cheese gear in the photo directly above is a very clever system that I got from The Cheesemaker, a supply house in Wisconsin. It does the trick nicely.
In the first stages of their ripening- before I cover them in cheese wrap- the Camembert rounds are placed in the plastic box shown above. The plastic grid sits in the bottom of the box. Any whey given off by the cheese during the aging process is caught in the grid, with the cheese held safely above it so it doesn't sit in a puddle of whey for days on end. The cheese sits directly on the thin mat, which is placed atop the grid. Through trial and error I have found that without the lid (not shown) on the box, the cheese dries out too much and I don't get a good bloom of white mold on the surface. If I snap the lid onto the box, the humidity is too high and I get yucky black mold on the cheese. By placing the lid loosely on top of the box, I have been getting the humidity just right and the Camembert comes out beautifully.
My next challenge: finding a reasonably local source of raw goat's milk.