AGING CHEESE

It's too Gouda to be true

age doesn't matter . . . unless you're a cheese


Aging, sometimes called ripening, is the most important stage of cheese production. By allowing cheeses to rest in controlled conditions, they develop the appearance, texture, flavor and aroma qualities that make them unique.

During aging, the bloom blossoms on Camembert, the holes burst into Swiss, and the veins shoot through Gorgonzola.

The mildest cheeses, like ricotta, cream and cottage, are consumed fresh and not ripened at all while Parmigiano Reggiano is aged three years, giving it a very complex nutty somewhat fruity taste and a hard, gritty texture.


Why Age Cheese - What's Happening?

Normally cheeses are aged under controlled conditions from a few days to several years. As a cheese ages, microbes and enzymes transform texture and intensify flavor. This transformation is largely a result of the breakdown of casein proteins and milkfat into a complex mix of amino acids, amines, and fatty acids.

Some cheeses have prepared cultures (bacteria or molds) intentionally introduced before aging. These cheeses include soft ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, blue cheeses such as Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, and rind-washed cheeses such as Limburger.


Cheese Storage

Because cheese is a biologically active living food, wash your hands with soap and water before handling and avoid cross-contamination of cheese flavors by cleaning knives and cutting boards with boiling water between cuttings.

It has been considered best practice to re-wrap cheese that has been opened with new, clean wrapping and designate a location in your refrigerator that is free from strongly aromatic foods because the cheese may absorb the aromas. Most refrigerators have a “dairy” or “cheese” drawer.


Cheese Storage Vault

All that wrapping and storage information is good but cheese experts agree that the worst possible way to store your cheese is by wrapping it in plastic wrap.

Cheese needs to “breathe” and eliminate excess moisture to maintain its flavor and delay molding just like in a cheese cave. The Cheese Vault is a simple, inexpensive and reusable way to store your artisan cheese.

VIEW A CHEESE VAULT


Fresh Natural Rindless Cheese

Fresh, rindless cheeses such as Mascarpone, Fresh Mozzarella, Queso Blanco, Ricotta and Feta, should be stored at 35°F to 39°F. Place the cheese in a plastic container covering it tightly in storage to avoid flavor absorption from other foods. Feta keeps best when stored in a salt brine bath in a tightly sealed plastic container. If you find mold on a fresh, rindless cheese, discard the entire product.

Semi-soft, rindless cheeses such as Cheddar, Muenster, Havarti, Colby, Baby Swiss, Swiss, Farmers, Fontina, Monterey Jack and Queso Quesadilla should be stored at 40°F to 45°F, wrapped in parchment or waxed paper first and then again in plastic wrap.


Hard & Semi-Hard Natural Rind Cheese

Natural rind cheeses include semi-hard and hard grating cheeses such as Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, GranQueso, Aged Provolone and Kasseri. Store natural rind cheeses at 40°F to 45°F tightly wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent moisture loss. If the plastic wrap imparts a slightly “plastic” flavor to the cheese, simply scrape the cheese surface before serving.


Soft-Ripened Washed Rind, Bloomy Rind & Chèvre

Washed rind cheeses include Petit Basque, Gruyère, Limburger, Raclette, Butterkäse, Italian styleFontina, Brick, German (Aged) Brick and Wisconsin originals such as Knight’s Vail, Les Fréres, Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Italico.

Bloomy rind include Camembert and Brie. Bloomy Rind cheeses are surface ripened. This means that the surrounding fluffy white mold encourages the proper ripening of the interior paste of the cheese. During the cheese making process, the outside of the cheese is coated with Penicillium candidum, which is a specific mold culture that forms into a “bloomy” edible crust. As the flavor-producing candidum mold begins to break down, a creaminess spreads throughout the interior of the cheese, giving it an optimal flavor and smooth texture.

Chèvre is a generic term for cheese made from the milk of goats, chèvre meaning goat in French. Some chèvre have rinds while some do not.

Store all these cheeses at 40°F to 50°F and at an elevated humidity of 65%. After the cheese is cut, wrap it in waxed or parchment paper and place it in a plastic container pierced with several holes to allow air circulation. If the cheese appears to be drying out, place a clean, slightly damp paper towel in the bottom of the container to elevate the humidity.

If the cheese begins to smell ammoniated, remove it from the container and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator or on a clean counter. Once the odor is no longer present, rewrap the cheese in clean paper and refrigerate. If the odor persists after 2 to 3 hours, discard the cheese.


Blue-Veined Cheese

Blue-veined cheeses include Blue Cheese and firm or Italian-style Gorgonzola. Store at 40°F to 45°F at elevated humidity levels, wrapped in aluminum foil, preferably the original foil of the cheese. Finding mold on a blue-veined cheese is usually a good thing, however, if the mold is across the surface and is darker than usual then discard the entire piece.