Affinage is a French word that refers to caring for cheese as it ages. The aging process is where our cheese matures and develops its awesome flavor. We make our cheeses in an artisan European style. Cheese factories suffocate cheese in vacuum pack bags right after they come out of the press. Instead, we place them on shelves made from local wood and allow them to develop a natural rind.
For the first two weeks after they come out of the press (learn about how we press cheese curds into wheels in our last post), we turn the cheese wheels as they age. If we don’t turn them, the wheels will start to bulge at the bottom. By turning daily, we expose all the sides of the wheel to air regularly for the rind to develop properly.
We follow a schedule to turn every wheel of cheese in our coolers once a week. If any of the wheels have mold growing on them we wash and scrub them off with water, vinegar, brine, or wine as needed.
We have three different aging rooms, one set at 55°F and another set at 45°F and one just for our blue cheese. The blue cheese gets a aging room to itself because the blue molds like to spread to other cheeses. We keep the blue cooler at 50°F which is the perfect temperature for the blue molds to grow. All of our other cheeses start out aging in the colder aging room. We move some of them to the warmer one once they reach a certain age. Some varieties we keep in the warmer room, others age better at a colder temperature.
Visitors often ask us how long we age our cheeses. We make our cheese from raw milk. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raw milk cheese regulations we must age each batch for 60 days before sale. All of our cheeses for sale are at least two months old. Many of them we age for over six months and our Royer Mountain and Four Leaf Clover are aged for over twelve months. We have a few customers that ask us to reserve wheels so that they age for over two years.
NEXT TIME: Packaging, Packaging, Packaging!