Cheese 101

Hello There!

We have been quiet for a few months as things are going slower than we expected. If you follow us on social media you might have seen that we finally found a location for our new facility. It’s located on 107 E Mulberry St. in Lebanon, OH - right downtown in our home community. It’s a smaller project than we initially planned, but it’s a more central location with great potential including a Make Room visible from the street and a Tasting Room. We need to do renovations to get it Cheese Maker approved, but the plan is to be open by June 2018.

We will craft and age cheese in small batches right in the space. In fact, if you come visit you can see the production right from the street. We will also have a retail space to sell our cheeses and other local products like cured meats, milk, yogurt and maybe bread and pastries. We will keep you updated with all the options. There is space for cheesemaking classes, and for just hanging out as we plan to have a wine and beer license!

To your question of what kind of cheese we make, it’s always hard to answer (except for Toby, our cheddar style cheese). We craft European inspired cheeses. Those are cheeses that are not well know in the US and, to be honest, even outside of their country of origin.

Describing our cheeses would be easier if we could put them in a category. But because there is a large diversity and complexity in cheeses, even the experts don’t agree on how to classify and categorize them (there is a review about this topic by Almena-Aliste M. & Mietton B., 2014). You always end up with cheeses that would fit in several categories (like anything in life, basically). But there are a few characteristics that can help describe a cheese and here is a simplify way to do it.

One of the cheese characteristics useful to describe a cheese is moisture or simply put, the texture of the cheese, which usually depends on the time the cheese has been aged. You can have fresh or soft cheese, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard (even extra hard if you want a more specific description). Some examples of soft cheeses are Mozzarella, cream cheese or queso fresco that literally means “fresh cheese” in Spanish. Camembert and Brie are considered semi-soft cheeses. Their paste is creamy and even runny. They are never firm. Our three cheeses Haya, Toby and Apollo are considered semi-hard cheeses. The texture is firm but not too dry. These types of cheese are usually aged for a few months. They tend to melt quite easily and other examples are Gruyère and Gouda. Cheeses that are aged longer, loose most of the moisture and their texture becomes hard, often brittle and they are good for grating like Parmigiano.

Findlay Market
Photo caption: Sharon Creek from My Artisano Foods, a bloomy rind semi-soft cheese (left) and French Délice du Jura, a washed rind semi-soft cheese (right).

Another characteristic that helps describe a cheese is its rind. It is very fascinating what happens at the rind level but I’ll talk about that on another blog. Some cheeses have no rind – because they are fresh (the cheese doesn’t spend time in the aging room) like mozzarella. It may also not have a rind because during the aging process the surface of the cheese was protected by vacuum sealing or with wax.

Other cheeses have a nice white fluffy cover and so they are called “bloomy rind cheeses”, an example is Camembert. The white fluff can be mold (Penicillium candidum, Penicillium camemberti; it sounds funky, but trust me, it is good), or yeast that looks like a mold (Geotrichum candidum), usually added during the cheesemaking process. There are also semi-soft cheeses with reddish/orange sticky rinds; usually with a strong “cheese” smell although that doesn’t mean their flavor is strong. They are called “washed rind cheeses” because during the short aging, the rind is washed with a brine solution that can contain other things like beer or brandy. This wash creates an environment favorable to the growth of some bacteria, often including Brevibacterium linens. The bacteria are responsible for the reddish color of the rind, and the pungent smell. To make things complicated, some hard cheeses also have their rind washed. The aging process is long and the rind becomes dry and hard. It is the case of Gruyère. But usually when people speak about wash rind cheese, it’s likely that they are referring to a semi-soft cheese not the aged ones.

And then, there are cheeses that during the aging process some microorganisms grow on the surface (bacteria, yeast and mold) without much intervention from the cheesemaker. These microorganisms come from the raw milk and the environment and form a greyish layer, sometimes with yellow or red spots. These rinds are called natural rinds and one example of a natural rind cheese is our Haya.

We hope that with these few tips, you will feel a little more confortable shopping for cheese!

Findlay Market
Haya’s natural rind.

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