We've had a few challenges to contend with this month. The cold snap has slightly pulled down the base temperature of the rooms, but what does that mean for us? The goal of temperature is to keep the microbes in the cheese on the move, keep them doing their thing - not at a rate where they go hell to leather but to maintain a gentle movement. Maturing is all about tiny increments of change. Reviewing the changes and when something good happens, attempt to recreate that in future batches. It’s interesting as that also translates into taste. There's an old adage; people work at 80% and you're focusing on that final 20%. That’s what we want with our cheese. These subtleties, which sometimes go unnoticed, will be the difference between having a great-tasting experience or having a phenomenal one.
Sparkenhoe Red Leicester - 23 Month
The Sparkenhoe at 23 months still proves to be a triumph. The cheese mite control program of brushing twice a week has been reduced to once a week, also with a turn. The humidity level is holding, keeping the cheese moist considering its age. The profile is impactful, strong and without any taint. I would be doing it a disservice, but we are trying to plug the hole of those wax-based cheeses within our delis which have a sharp, but short experience. Giving customers that upfront experience, but wrapped up nicely with an artisanal bow with the added effect of longevity is what we are after.
Spenwood is proving extremely popular at the moment. Due to a process of elimination, I believe that time, in this particular cheese, increases the likelihood of small crystals developing in the cheese. Time equals crystals is true for most cheeses, but the Spenwood appears to have a higher probability of this occurring. The cheese is robust enough to retain its acidity, and nutty and savoury notes with the addition of a slight granular texture. I think it’s a winner and it looks like customers do too, as this batch has sold completely through. I will restart this maturing regime with a new load from Village Maid Cheese, keeping it wrapped and turning it weekly.
Winslade has been a noticeable success, born out of a few tasting trials with the legendary vintners, Saffron Grange. A fair few months ago we worked together to achieve a profile which would pair succinctly with their cuvée as a Christmas special. By maturing the Winslade for an additional 2-3 weeks, and with frequent turning, we found increased sprouts and mushroomy flavour with an increased likelihood of a full texture breakdown. This cheese can be used for baking and stand-alone. A slight caveat, we noted a slight increase in ammonia on the rind and in the flavour and therefore concluded that this cheese requires regular reviews and visual inspection of the orange exterior to ensure the tasting experience is the best.
We currently have our favourite profile of Bigod nailed and as each batch arrives I review and act accordingly to ensure the profile that we love comes to fruition. Once achieved, we then chill to keep the developing microbes in a hibernation state which will hold that profile rather than it demishing. However, we have grown appreciative of three profiles. Young (lactic/dairy), middle ground (savoury and a bit of freshness) and aged (full-on savoury and pan roast veg vibes). Our view is to take a leaf out of the French book; and provide three different levels of maturity for our customers. I’ll keep you posted.
Following the success of Ashcombe, I will be researching what selective pressures (temperature, time, humidity and touching, turning and brushing) I can utilise to see how the cheese responds for better… or worse.
I hope to make this a monthly thing, putting my notes up to see if you guys find this enjoyable. At Rennet and Rind, we want to take you behind the scenes so you can truly understand the labour and ingenuity that goes into each cheese. Under each cheese on our online store, you can find maturing notes from me. Every piece of cheese is different and at Rennet and Rind, we welcome the small changes that can result in fantastic smells, flavours and textures.