The Crottin and Valençay cheeses we made a couple weeks back are sitting in ripening boxes in our steadily cool basement, growing white fur coats.
When I opened the boxes today to take a few photos, the smell that came out of the boxes (and that still lingers in my office, where the ripening boxes are kept) smelled like…REAL CHEESE. Real, aged, wonderfully developed goat cheeses.
I almost can’t believe that we’re finally doing what we’ve been talking about doing for twenty years.
And I can’t wait to have our first taste of our first mold-ripened cheese.
Technically, the Valençay is ready to try in two days, at which point, we’ll remove them from the ripening boxes, taste one, and wrap the other three in cheese paper to allow further aging and development. We’re aiming for a slightly soft core, so that might take another three to four weeks of aging in the cheese paper. The Crottin tasting will follow a few days after the Valençay.
We will have to make fresh bread for both tastings. And, if there’s time, maybe some of this incredible looking Apple-Sage jelly from It’s Not You, it’s Brie. And you can bet a really nice bottle of wine will be involved.
And then we’ll make more cheese.
The ripening boxes seem to be working well, but we want a real cave. We don’t have one, and we’re not getting one anytime soon (and why oh why in the world did we not think about this when we had an entirely new foundation dug and poured five years ago??*), but we’ve found what we think is the next best thing: a great deal on a used wine refrigerator.
Although we could use a standard/dorm fridge or a chest freezer as a cave (and many people do), we’d have to get an external, overriding thermostat to force it to stay at the temperature we want. Since wine is kept at approximately the same temperatures at which cheese is aged (coincidence? I think not) — anywhere from about 50 to 60 degrees F — the wine refrigerator’s built-in thermostat will let us directly set the temperature we want.
Besides, the wine refrigerator has that nice glass door so we can ogle our cheeses without letting the humidity out.
Speaking of which… in addition to temperature, when aging cheese, we need to control for humidity, so we got this little gadget — a hygrometer — which will let us know the humidity level in the cave.
The Valençay wants a humidity level of about 85%; the Crottin requires 90%. Our house is now at about 38%. To add humidity, we’ll put a small bowl or cup of water in the cave (this is what we’ve also done in the ripening boxes and it seems to be working well).
Little by little, the pieces seem to be falling into place. The only thing left is to make a lot of cheese, and share it with you.
* M reminds me that we did think about having a cheese cave and/or root cellar dug as part of the new foundation, but it was one of the many things crossed off the list when we realized the renovation plans were 100% over budget. Ooops.