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The Scrubbing of the Cheese

June 15th, 2010
Are we really going to eat that? Monchacha, before and after.
Are we really going to eat that? Monchacha, before (on right) and after.

We age our hard cheeses in the cellar, in a screened cabinet that Karl made to keep out nibbling critters. The house has a stone foundation, and though one side opens onto a hill, most of the cellar is underground and stays pretty consistently cool and damp. It’s not a steady 55 degrees with a relative humidity between 65 and 85 percent (the ideal conditions for aging a hard cheese), but usually it’ll do.

This spring, however, it’s been unseasonably warm, with enough rain to leave standing pools in some corners of the basement. We have an abundance of milk, but I haven’t made a lot of hard cheeses because the conditions just haven’t been right for aging them. We did make a couple of Monchachas at May’s cheese workshop, though, and this morning I went down to check on them. The heat and humidity had combined to give them each a luxurious coating of blue fur.

According to Ricki Carroll, whose book, Home Cheese Making, I consult for all things cheese-related, unwanted mold can be removed by rubbing the cheese rind with lightly salted water, so I made some brine and got to work. Some of the mold was so stubborn that it needed to be scrubbed off with a vegetable brush, but once they were cleaned, the cheeses didn’t look half bad.

We had a similar problem late last summer, when it was a bit too wet and warm, and we did a couple rounds of scrubbings to all the cheeses in a full cabinet.  When we were finally brave enough to crack one open, beneath the rind was a fine tasting cheese. (Though I wouldn’t recommend eating the rind.) Perhaps one of these days, we’ll build a proper temperature-and-humidity-controlled cave, but until then we can live with a little mold. To some it may be fur, to others it’s terroir.

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posted by Cheese , ,

  1. June 15th, 2010 at 22:55 | #1

    Hmm, and Yum – this looks like some cheese I’ve found way back in the back of my fridge – the before pic, not the after! LOL I usually just cut away the mold and eat it anyway. I’m sure yours is tastier than the Kroger brand I buy, though! ROFL – thanks for sharing with us all. Take care, from KY.

  2. June 16th, 2010 at 10:39 | #2

    Margaret, I just finished your first book, in a day and a half. I really enjoyed it so much. Your candor made your dreams and plans mine for the length of the book. And they are lingering a bit.

    I’ll soon be reading your newest book and I cannot wait to meet you at the workshop and see how it is all working out for you and your family. And meet the goats too!

    I wonder how many folks realize how much goes into making artisan cheeses? I’m just beginning to.

    I always love your posts, even though I hardly cook. Leecia

  3. Jeanine
    June 16th, 2010 at 12:29 | #3

    These are two different sizes, right? I mean, the “before” isn’t the Big Hair version of the scrubbed (and significantly smaller) cheese.

  4. June 16th, 2010 at 13:39 | #4

    @Leecia Price
    I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the book! And I’m very much looking forward to showing you the farm and making some cheese together–though I think we’ll skip the moldy part. See you in July!

  5. June 16th, 2010 at 13:41 | #5

    @Jeanine
    Yep–I should have clarified that in the post. The one with the fur is a “big cheese” (made from 3 gallons of milk), while the one of the right is smaller–even with the fur.

  6. November 29th, 2010 at 11:07 | #6

    Your farm is lovely and I love your goat cheese.