La Jeune Autise, from Nieul-sur-l’Autise, in the Loire Valley in Western France.
Crafted in the style of a cow’s milk Morbier with the traditional ash line running through the center, this is actually a goat’s milk cheese. The rind is orange, sticky and slightly grainy. It is actually a far milder cheese than one might expect from a washed rind —and a washed rind goat at that — with a creamy, earthy, lightly tangy paste with hints of mushroom and hay and just a very gentle goatiness.
Purchased at the Murrays counter at Grand Central.
The Gowanish, my own bloomy rind ash-coated cheese (formerly Gowanus Ash, but it was politely pointed out by some that “Gowanus Ash” sounds more like what they’ll be removing from the Gowanus during the SuperFund cleanup).
This wheel was a little over the hill, as is evident by the very liquid creamline and thicker rind, but that being said, I was happy with the flavor. The gooey outer portion had a stronger, slightly bluish salty bite to it, while the interior was creamy, milder and sweet with a goaty undertone. We ended up scooping it out almost like a Vacherin, leaving the shells of the rinds behind. The rinds themselves tasted fine but were a bit tough and honestly didnt contribute anything to the experience by this point.
Two goals as I move forward:
1) More even aging through the wheel so that I don’t end up with what I have here, where the outside ring liquifies while the inside stays firm. Ideally the two would meet somewhere in the middle and be evenly gooey.
2) More delicate rinds. Developing a good rind is no small feat, of course, and many a French master has probably spent half his career finessing the rinds of his cheeses. Currently I’m adding the Candidum and Geotrichum directly to the milk right before the rennet. This is undeniably much more practical for the home cheesemaker, who may not have the facilities or schedule that allow for spraying the molds on during aging. But it also leads to a thicker rind, because rather than growing from a thin layer on the outside, working its way into the cheese, it is present throughout the milk (if you get a small air pocket within the paste during aging it will develop it’s own little geode-esque internal rind because of this). The downside of spraying is that it would require much more vigilance and regular care to ensure that the pyramids get a spray down on schedule. That might be an experiment for an upcoming batch.
First layers of snowy mold pushing through on the Gowanus Ash pyramids.
The “Gowanus Ash” bloomie goat, out of the molds and getting ashed before going back into the “cave” for aging.
A fresh round of ash-covered bloomy-rind chevre, ready for the cave. This is the “Christmas batch” and will be accompanying me upstate for the holidays.
I’m trying to decide on a name for this cheese. As noted in my previous post regarding my last batch, the working title was “Gowanus Goat”, but I’m on the fence about it.
“St Gowanus”, “Gowanus Chevre”, “Gowania”, “Brooklyn Ash”; several names are bouncing around. Suggestions appreciated!
Photos of my first foray into an ash-coated bloomy rind cheese (Working title: Gowanus Goat, in honor of the idyllic canal that flows at the end of my block. And if you’re familiar with the Gowanus, you know how tongue in cheek the use of the word “idyllic” is). I sliced into it on day 20. This was molded with 5 parts Penicillium Candidum to 1 part Geotrichum Candidum, and coated with an active-charcoal/salt mix. at day 8, it was wrapped in MRP paraffin-coated cheese paper from New England Cheesemaking — also the source of the molds, rennet, cultures, draining boards and pretty much all my cheese making equipment — and left mostly unattended except for occasional flipping. At day 18 I opened it up to inspect it. At the same time I had also aged some non ash-coated, unwrapped chevres, and the wrapped, ash-covered cheese definitely had a thicker, more velvety rind and was softer to the touch. When I cut into it, the difference was immediately apparent, with a paste that was moist and had some give to it, and a nice gooey layer beneath the rind. I only had one wheel unfortunately, so I don’t know how far into the paste the more liquid aging would have progressed, given time, but I’ll find out the next time around, as the next batch will be all ash-covered and paper-wrapped.
So how did it taste? Tangy, grassy, with a nice sharpness to it especially just under the rind, with the interior paste moist and chalky, with a milder flavor. Medium sapidity. Slightly too salty — I’ll definitely need to tweak the salt/ash balance in the next round as I oversalted the rind this time around, but not egregiously so, it’s just a little saltier than I would have liked. You notice it when eating it on its own especially; when spread on bread the flavor balances out.
As my first foray into ash-coating, I’d call this a success, and I’m looking forward to the next batch!
The mold progression of an ash covered goat cheese, over the course of a week. This is the first time I’ve tried an ash rind. Active charcoal is mixed with salt and sprinkled onto the surface of the cheese (I’ll have to work on getting a more even coat next time). The ash lowers the acidity of the surface of the cheese and makes it more hospitable to the molds, in this case a mix of 5 parts Penicillium Candidum to 1 part Geotrichum Candidum. It’s also supposed to add complexity to the flavor of the cheese; I’ll be interested to see what the difference is when I cut into this piece.
Back in my college days, when I was first expanding my cheese palette, Morbier was one of the first “fancy” cheeses I discovered and fell in love with. It didn’t just taste good but had a story to go with it — that famous ash line down the center — which traditionally separated the evening and morning milks, so that leftover cheese from the evening make could be covered with ash to sit overnight, and then topped off with fresh curds in the morning.
Unfortunately, Morbier is a popular cheese, and its quality wildly variable, with overproduction and poor cheese handling leading to a lot of subpar Morbier being sold, to the point where you don’t often see it on restaurant cheese plates anymore, and I frankly tended to skip over it when shopping for cheese. I suspect, like Brie or Brin d’Amour, it’s also tainted with a bit of a stigma of being “over”, last decade’s cheese, and people have moved on.
Enter Murray’s. Among their custom Cave Aged cheeses is Morbier, and after tasting it, I can confirm that, recent affinage kerfluffle notwithstanding, Murray’s knows what they’re doing when it comes to affinage — or aging or cheese handling or wheel juggling or whatever term you’re comfortable using for what they do — suffice it to say, they do it well. This cheese, from the Jura region of France, has a creamy, moist, giving paste, a lovely pungent aroma and a nutty, grassy, mild flavor. This is not your rubbery, flavorless supermarket Morbier.
The good news: It was absolutely a point, as the cheesemongers at Brooklyn Larder promised. Gooey and melting just under the rind, with a smooth, creamy, salty and tangy paste deeper in, with a beautiful vein of ash running through it.
The bad news: being at peak does not always translate into easily transported: as the photo above attests, by the time I’d gotten it home, the paste had slid out from within the rind and broken apart, foiling my plans for a well-staged photo. That being said, I actually like the photo above, as it clearly illustrates the textural contrasts between the different elements of the cheese: the firm rind, the melting, liquid, sublimely delicious top strata below it, and the firm, delectable inner paste. Great cheese aint always pretty.