Finessing my affinage

Affinage? That’s maturing your cheese once it’s made.

In my experience, this is where the real skill is when making cheese. Up to this point you are scrupulously clean,  follow a recipe, watch your pH and handle your cheese appropriately – trying to standardise as far as possible from one batch to another to avoid variations in your end product. But what you do next can turn a simple cheese into a masterpiece. At this point, variations in temperature, humidity and surface treatment can create wildly different cheeses even from a single batch.

This was exactly the point of bringing home the four small brie cheeses that we made this week. Each of us has four cheeses and each of us is going to record what we do with them and report back.

A. is going to keep things simple and taste hers at different ages, although she might decide to try something different with one or two of them. P. is going to taste one at a young stage, surface treat one of hers with extra white mould (there’s already some in the cheese) and keep the other two under slightly different temperature regimes to see whether they develop differently. My four cheeses are going to be treated as follows:

  1. Charcoal-coated, kept at about 10-12C
  2. As-is, kept at about 10-12C
  3. As-is, for 3 weeks at about 10-12C, then tasting and trial storage in oil (with herbs?)
  4. As-is for 3 weeks at about 10-12C, then wrapped in calvados-soaked nasturtium leaves and matured for a further 3-4 weeks at 10-12C

Ash-coating of cheeses is common on the continent and I have enjoyed eating many such products, so the first treatment makes use of some food-grade charcoal powder that I already have. The third treatment is the sort of thing that you do with feta and I thought it might result in a good flavour. The final treatment is my most experimental, but using alcohol-soaked edible leaves or flowers is an approach used by various artisan cheese makers. I toyed with using nasturtium flowers rather than leaves, but I decided that they were a bit delicate for a first try, although I may give them a go in the future. The leaves are currently macerating in calvados, where they will stay until I’m ready to wrap the cheese.

As for the big cheese, I’m keeping it simple. It’s currently on a rack drying at room temperature. By tomorrow the surface should be nice and dry and it should no longer be weeping any whey. I’m then going to use cheese coating on it – this is a breathable coating that protects the cheese from unwanted micro-organism contamination, but still allows the production of a rind with surface growth. I’ve never used it before, but the cheese is so big that it would be difficult to wax, and a challenge to store without risking surface contamination.

IMGP4375

It’s like waiting for cheese to dry!

Over the coming weeks I will report back about progress… wish me luck!

 

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26 Comments

  1. WOW! Really interesting experiments. Good job you have that special fridge! I look forward to seeing how they turn out – all delicious I am sure but with different flavours.

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  2. This is fascinating, I had no idea what is involved in making cheeses. Or that there is a variety of ways to finish them. I’m not sure how much luck you need as you seem to have a pretty good idea what you’re doing. But good luck anyway!

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  3. Luck!! Now is getting close to the time I wish I could pop in for a visit and a little cheese tasting! 🙂 This sounds so exciting and interesting and inspiring……. I’m looking forward to hearing how it all goes!

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  4. Calvados soaked nasturtium leaves? That’s certainly making use of what you have to hand! I’m glad you’re not going with the orange-sweaty-very-stinky finish on Chaumes cheese…

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  5. Affinage – great word! I always learn so much from your posts Mrs Snail.

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  6. I look forward to hearing the results! Sounds a great experiment – and very tasty.

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  7. Good luck! This is where my cheese making efforts quickly deteriorate since I don’t have anywhere “stable” for them to live in while they age.

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  8. Good luck, but I don’t think you will need it. My mouth is watering at the thought of these cheeses.

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  9. As a cheese lover, I am fascinated by what you are getting up to. Gouda keep on trying 🙂 Respect!

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  10. Laurie Graves

     /  October 24, 2017

    My goodness! Quite a process. Look forward to reading about the results.

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  11. Oh yummy these look good. I hope you get the flavors you’re after.

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    • When I checked yesterday, the outer mould was not developing as I wanted on the small cheeses, so I changed my plans…. and we ate half of one of them… it was delicious. Now one is oiled, one is wrapped in leaves and the remaining half of the one we ate has been cubed and is in olive oil (like feta). The charcoal one has been left to do its own thing for the time being… pictures in due course, no doubt.

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