As Told by Mia: Affinage

bedfordcheeseshop / September 26, 2013, 5pm

Cards you will find describing the cheeses found in BCS.

On the infamously funny cheese signs at the Bedford Cheese shop, you will find information such as the name, milk type, if it is raw or pasteurized, the location of the dairy farm and… what’s that other thing next to the name of the cheese?  Meunier? Neal’s Yard Dairy? Beeler?  Those are the affineurs.

Affineur is the French word for those who help cheeses mature to their fullest flavor potential.  The process, affinage, is the delicate yet rigorous, task of ripening cheese until the mature state of agreed-upon perfection.  It has been said that this was to fit the taste of the king (or queen) or other wealthy patrons. Now cheese is ripened to suit the taste of you! (now doesn’t that kinda make you feel like royalty?)

Affinage is about nurturing cheeses and letting them ripen in their own time in order to bring out their best qualities. The affineur matures cheeses in order to bring to light their fullest flavor profiles. To be a successful affineur, one must have a well rounded knowledge of all aspects of the cheesemaking process including land stewardship, animal husbandry, milk production and each step of the cheese making process.  An affineur eventually develops skills that include selection, tasting, and the application of ripening treatments for optimum results of all cheeses within their aging facilities, also known as caves.

A core sample taken from a wheel of Grey Goat Gouda (left).  Core samples are taken in order for affineurs to try the cheese without destroying the wheel.  Skilled affineurs can taste nuances in the flavors of the cheese allowing him or her know if the cheese is ready to eat or needs more time to age.

The setup of the cave or aging facility where the cheeses sit to ripen is extremely important in the cheese aging process.  The physical construction of the aging facility is highly influential to developing healthy, delicious cheeses and once a facility is built, affineurs must manage a set of variables within the cave meticulously. Temperature, humidity conditions, duration of aging, the type, degree, and frequency of treatments are amongst an affineur’s responsibilities.  There are microorganisms present in the cheese when it arrives at the aging facility and the affineur tries to encourage the growth of beneficial ones and eliminate those harmful to the character and quality of the cheese. Adjusting the temperature and humidity in the aging facilities accordingly influences the final product (a few degrees off in either direction can cause undesirable fungal blooms resulting in anything from imparting a bitter taste to more major catastrophes such as causing all of your bries to melt into a pile of goo).

The optimum length of the ripening period depends on the cheese type.  As a rule, the harder the cheese the longer it should ripen, and, the longer a cheese ripens, the harder it gets.  As a cheese ripens, it continues to lose moisture allowing salt to spread throughout causing it to become more solid ultimately giving the cheese a higher proportion of dry matter.  Much care must be taken to continue ripening treatments without causing the cheese  to become overly salty.

It is an affineur’s duty to understand all of these processes and manage them expertly so that the cheese reaches the peak of its flavor which is well balanced and not overly salty.

 

Philipe Goux, affineur of Marcel Petite Comte’ Fort St. Antoine (left )

Marcel Petite Fort St. Antoine Comte’

“We hand select our cheeses from among the 60,000 wheels slowly and coolly aging in the caves at Marcel Petite Fort St. Antoine. The fort is a former subterranean army fort converted in the early sixties into a colossal cave more reminiscent of an Egyptian tomb than a place to age cheese. Sunk into the side of a hill, fortified with thick stone walls, it offers a cool, damp environment ideal for maturing cheese. For thirteen to eighteen months the cheeses sit in this carefully controlled natural environment…” – Essex St. Cheese Co. website

Conclusion

When you take a cheese home from BCS, you too become an affineur – managing the continuous ripening process from your own refrigerator.  Paying attention to small details such as keeping your cheese in a humid environment and not wrapping it in plastic wrap will allow you to keep your cheese fresh and healthy longer allowing you to experience the gradation of subtle flavors as your cheese ages.  Enjoy cheese on your terms!

Get comfortable with understanding the nature of how something is made, and how its basic ingredients and handling might affect it. You can approach any cheese with recognition and better understanding by getting to know the different stages of your cheeses life. Remember- cheese is a living thing that needs to be handled with care to ensure its full potential throughout its life. How can you tell when things have gone too far?  You’ll know.  It’s that window-cleaner-meets-cat-box moment.

How to Keep Cheese Fresh at Home

Keep it under wraps

- Wrap your cheese in wax or butcher paper or Formaticum paper or cheese bags

- Never keep your cheese wrapped in plastic wrap.  This will suffocate your cheese and impart a plastic-y taste

Keep it humid

- Place your cheese  in a small tupperware container or in the crisper drawer

Keep a Constant Air Flow

- Open the lid on your tupperware container slightly


 

For a more visual experience of the affinage process, a video of the two aging facilites of the farms on which I volunteered.  Pienza and Montefiascone, Italy

A Visual Aid


 

Bibliography

McCalman, Max, Gibbons, David. Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maitre Fromager. Clarkson Potter, New York, New York. 2009

Wolf, Clark. American Cheeses: The Best Regional, Artisan, and Farmhouse Cheeses. Simon & Schuster, New York, New York. 2008

Eekhof-Stork, Nancy. The World Atlas of Cheese. Spectrum Amsterdam International Publishing, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 1976

Essex St. Cheese co. http://essexcheese.com/about/comte/ last accessed: July 23, 2013

Check out the giant underground army fort cave! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=h05NwMe-2rE

Photos & Video

by Mia Vergari

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Guess Who’s Back

bedfordcheeseshop / July 30, 2013, 6pm

2013 has been a big year for us at the BCS! For starters, we celebrated the 1 year anniversary of our Manhattan location. Gramercy, a quaint nook located just blocks from the Union Square Green Market, has been such a welcoming neighborhood to us. We opened our doors and wheels to our neighbors and friends to celebrate our paper anniversary. Prizes and goodies were auctioned off to support the Daphne Zeppo’s cheese scholarship program and our friends at Allswell provided some stellar nosh to accompany the cheese, wine and Brooklyn Brewery spirits that were flowin’. Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate the first of many milestones for our baby brother, Bedford.

 

The Fancy Food show rolled into our neck of the woods and made being an over eating food-snob encouraged and accepted for three sweet days. Friends and fellow food enthusiasts stopped by to share in the good word of cheese. Essex St. Cheese CO. rolled through with a star studded cheese panel and hosted a cheese class by producers for patrons. Bridges being built between consumers and producers is always a beautiful sight to see. The Cheesemonger Invitational followed giving us cheese enthusiasts a venue to curd out in. It’s a guaranteed good time and this year our very own, Kris Garrand placed in the top 10. Congrats to Justin Trosclair of the St. James Cheese Shop for taking home the gold and for being a part of the party that is, CMI.

 

Now that the dust has settled and we are in the calm clammy heat-wave after the storm, we are ecstatic to announce a revival of the Bedford Cheese Shop blog. Make sure to check back here daily for captivating rants from us to you about our favorite fermented foods and for information about new products, classes and events happening at the shop. Our cheesemongers are on board to deliver diverse and interesting posts catering to the food lovers in us all. And remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram AND Vine for live updates on all things cheese.

 

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Mast Brothers Chocolate and Bedford Cheese Shop

jessica / September 4, 2012, 12pm

For those of you who don’t  know our Williamsburg  neighbors in chocolate, they are a company after our own hearts.  In-house at Mast Brothers Chocolate, the team roasts, ferments and heats their dark chocolate into a vast variety of flavors and textures.  We had the grand idea of making a soft-ripened goat cheese, fusing their smoky Papua New Guinea cacao bean with our full-bodied, citrusy Belgian St. Maure.  The result after aging for ten days was a firmer, more nuanced, full-bodied St. Maure cheese, perfect for a spinach salad with candied walnuts, dried cherries, and a sherry vinaigrette.  How can one get their hands on one of these delectable, neighborly delights?  At the moment, they are only featured in our collaborative classroom environment, The Homestead.

Photo Montage of the Cheese Chocolate

 

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Blue Bottle Coffee Pour Over

jessica / June 6, 2012, 12pm

Blue Bottle Coffee is our Williamsburg neighborhood coffee roastery.  We are blessed to have their expertise brought into our new space, The Homestead.  They will demystify the process of Pour Over Coffee Preparation!

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Wine Pairing 101

jessica / June 1, 2012, 9pm

Come Join Us on June 8, from 7:00 to 8:00 pm

Wine is cheese’s classic beverage pairing.  Discover a fine selection of our cheeses through an exploration of wine.  You will sip on whites, reds, rosés, champagne-styles, and dessert wines while learning about the basics of these productions, origins, and their best suited cheesey counterparts. Taught by one of our very own rockstar cheese mongers, Steph.

Price: $75

 Venue: The Homestead @ Bedford Cheese Shop IRVING

67 Irving Place NY NY 10003

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Whiskey, Cheese, and Pickle POP UP EVENT!!

jessica / June 1, 2012, 2pm

Bedford Cheese Shop and Post Office Restaurant: A Bond Beyond Cheese

Our Wholesale Cheese Manager at Bedford Cheese Shop, Stephanie Bealert, will be collaborating with our long time client, Post Office Restaurant, for this one of a kind event of whiskey, cheese, and pickle pairing.  Stephanie has worked with food since the age of 12 when she was adopted by her grandparents. She was raised by nurserymen, florists, and organic farmers who nurtured her craft and passion of  producing food and feeding people with love. Gardening throughout her lifetime, Steph has worked as a baker, a cook and since 2004, with her two true loves, cheese and wine.  Her thoughts on Post Office Restaurant:  ”Bedford Cheese Shop has had a lovely, community driven relationship with Post Office for the past year. Alla Lapushchik, the owner of Post Office, and head chef Sammy Glin, have brought a wonderfully curated venue of comfort food and whiskeys to one of the best corners of South Williamsburg. We can always count on Sammy to be the most enthusiastic and charming chef in the neighborhood, with his talent for pickles, chicken liver sandwiches and all out friendliness.”

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Classic British Isles Cheese Class and Interview

jessica / May 29, 2012, 3pm

It is a rare moment when we can say that we have brought the British Isles to America.  There will be a lucky group of us that will share this moment on Tuesday, June 5, from 7-8pm, in our new classroom space, The Homestead.  British cheese importers, Lillian Wilkie and Chris George, will be on the platform, getting up to their elbows in the curd, as a cheese maker would say.  They have both worked for Neal’s Yard Dairy, the most reputable British cheese distributor in the world.  British Isles cheese texture varies from soft to hard and everything in between. You will taste washed rinds, natural rinds, and cloth bound rinds.  These British classics will remain timeless.

Want to get a taste of  a life devoted to British Cheese Makers?  Lillian and Chris give their thoughtful answers to the burgeoning demand.

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Cheese Plate Essentials – An Intro Class

jessica / May 24, 2012, 4pm

We want everyone to be comfortable coming into our store and buying some of the best cheesey products they have ever had.

Come Join Us on Monday, June 4, from 7-8pm, as we demystify the cheese plate and get you on the road to becoming a cheese aficionado.

From Left to Right: Tourmalet (Raw French Sheep), Bauma Madurat Barra (Spanish Goat), Brie de Nangis (French Cow), Hudson Red (Raw New York Cow), Keen’s Cheddar (Raw English Cow), Shropshire Blue (English Cow)

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Cheesemonger Invitational Cocktail Party!

ChrisatBedfordCheese / May 18, 2012, 3pm

HI EVERYBODY!  HOW ARE YOU? I MISSED YOUR LITTLE CHEESE LOVING FACES!

So, many things have been happening.  We are less than a month away from having two locations!  So exciting!  (If confused about what I’m talking about, please see here for my public & extremely popular blog-based panic attack on the topic…) Expect to get a full photo tour and description and the works soon!  We are moving to a great location on Irving Place, right near Gramercy Park, and we expect to see you there.

And, it’s only a month away until the world famous CHEESEMONGER INVITATIONAL!!!!  GAHHHHH.  GET SO EXCITED.  The past two years yours truly, Christopher Hanawalt, has competed.  But this year, I’ve decided to hand over the reigns of the anxiety-sweats-and-blackout-drunk cheese chariot to our favorite curly headed jerk, Dylan Heister!  Hooray!  Round of applause!  The crowd goes wild!

And on that note.  I would like to announce, very formally, that the Bedford Cheese Shop is the official cocktail party sponsor of the Cheesemonger Invitational 2012!  WOOHOOO!   YESSSSSSSSS FINNNNNAAALLLLLYYYYYY!  Here are the details, approved by the one and only Adam Moskowitz himself:

2012 Cheesemonger Invitational Cocktail Party Invitational

67 Irving Place (between 18th and 19th)

Friday, June 22nd.

6:30 PM – 9:30 PM

Attire –> Las Vegas hooker chic

$10 at the door for beer, wine and fun times!  The first 75 people who RSVP will get a SPECIAL COOL PEOPLE discount and will only have to pay $7!  Yes!  RSVP to pr@bedfordcheeseshop.com

Curious what will be in store for you at the 2012 Cheesemonger Invitational Cocktail Party Invitational?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Your arrival at the party will include:

Delicious & imaginative party snacks!

Dancing!

Helpful staff!

Intriguing party guests!

Cool swag!

Dog pirates not guaranteed.

Shake weights and possible celebrity guest appearances!

Breathtaking and unusual flower arrangements!

Divas!

R.I.P. My goddess.

And all around good times!

So send an e-mail to pr@bedfordcheeseshop.com to RSVP today!  Thanks y’all!

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IPA

Nate / April 28, 2012, 4pm

Spring is in the air. You can feel it deep in your sinus cavities, no?  Mmmmm, pollens, grasses, and insects! Grasses. Let’s think about that. Grass. Cannabis. Hops!  Hops, folks, let’s talk about hops.  They’re all fluffy and full of alpha acids that add aroma and bitterness to that delicious glass of beer you have in your little paws. And what better way to get down with the hop than by drinking copious amounts of IPA?

IPAs can be notoriously difficult to pair with cheese- they can absolutely destroy your palate with bitter-y goodness, making the nuances of more delicate cheeses (or, sometimes, anything else) difficult to discover. Heartier, bolder, roughneck cheese is what we’re gonna have to find here. Or is it? Let’s hop to it…

hop…to it? har har…

Keep on readin’…

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