First growth of Mycodore on the new Tomme wheel. #cheesemaking (Via Cheese Notes’ Instagram).
Via jowettcheese on Tumblr:
Rind of Berkswell cheese at approx 20 weeks. Cheeses are washed before leaving the farm to remove excess mould development. Rind development here is spontaneous and environmentally reponsive. Each batch develops rind at a differing rate and composition, as does each of the cheese stores on the farm.
I love this photo, because it shows a side of the affinage process that most consumers will never see. The truth is, many wheels of cheese, by the time they emerge from the cave, look more like science experiments gone awry than something you’d want to eat, with thick layers of multi-colored molds, yeasts and bacterias, cheese mites, and other (beneficial) organisms happy to take up residence on the rind. Before they go to market, though, the rinds will be brushed off, cleaned up and end up looking a little more like this. The same is true for many foods of course: the best steaks often start as sides of beef aging for days or weeks and will end up gray with splotches of blue and green mold; fish sauce, that great elixir of southeast asian cuisine, spends many months as vats of fish “rotting” in the sun.
That’s the beauty of microbiology: the same processes that can turn one food inedible can turn another into a revelation of flavor, aroma and texture.
(Photo ©2013 Jowettcheese)
Bayley Hazen Blue, Up Close
Via the Cheese School of San Francisco, a (very) close-up view of the rind of Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue, courtesy of Harvard cheese microbiologist Ben Wolfe (who worked with Rachel Dutton on a groundbreaking study of the microscopic ecosystems of cheese rinds) . Wolfe explains what you’re looking at here:
“Some of the small orange circles are Brevibacterium, so B. linens is a good guess.
The fuzzy molds are Penicillium, so P. candidum is also a good guess. These molds are not inoculated like P. candidum, they are endemic molds from the environment.
The big white and yellow wrinkly/spreading blobs are both Staphylococcus (aka Staph) species. Most people think Staph are bad (they think of Staph infections or MRSA caused by Staphylococcus aureus), but many cheese and salami are covered with beneficial Staph species that produce a lot of delicious flavors.
Some of the white cream colored circles are yeast species.”
Update 12/31: On Twitter, Ben said that he’ll be doing similar sessions on the East Coast in the near future. No word on where or when just yet, but stay tuned.
(Photo ©2012 Cheese School SF)
Blue cheese is often referred to as a funky-smelling cheese; now it turns out that it may be gettin’ funky too, at least in a microscopic kind of way. Via the Smithsonian Magazine blog:
Cheese is a pretty weird thing when you think about it. Someone had to come up with the idea of taking a bunch of milk, adding bacteria, letting it basically go bad, and waiting to eat it until mold had grown on it.
And, if that grosses you out, just wait. It turns out that the fungi in cheeses like blue cheese aren’t just sitting there, waiting for you to eat them. They’re getting it on. Here’s Nitty Gritty Science on what’s going on:
“Until pretty recently, a big chunk of fungal species were thought to reproduce without sex–until people really started to look. It turns out, there’s a lot more sex going on in the fungal world (on the down-low) than people thought. And that includes fungi that are used to make delicious blue cheese. Jeanne Ropars and colleagues in France, the home of Roquefort cheese, looked at the genomes of the mold species used in this particular cheese to see what kind of funny business was going on in their snack of choice. They found much more diversity than could be explained by asexual reproduction. And even more telling, the genes used by fungi to find mating partners have been kept intact and functional by evolution, meaning there’s probably some sex going on.”
It turns out that this is actually a good thing for cheese makers, since producing new forms of cheese really means producing new forms of mold. When the mold is reproducing asexually, new forms come from random mutations within one strain that’s simply duplicating itself. But when different mold strains are getting it on, they create way more new strains and way more new cheeses.
The paper behind all this (titled “Sex in Cheese: Evidense for Sexuality in the Fungus Penicillium requeforti”) says:
In this species of high industrial importance, the induction of a sexual cycle would open the possibility of generating new genotypes that would be extremely useful to diversify cheese products.
Essentially, the researchers discovered that a fungus has all the genes and mechanical bits that it would need for sex. And not only is it capable of sex, there is evidence that it’s actually doing the deed.
Read the full story. (and don’t worry, its SFW)
(Photo ©2012 Smithsonian Magazine)
Haven’t you always wondered what cheese made from armpit and nose bacteria would taste like? No? Ok, fine, neither have I. But, Science! Thanks to a pair of intrepid researchers, we now know the answer. Via i09:
Biologist Christina Agapakis and scent expert Sissel Tolaas worked on this unusual culinary sciences project as part of Synthetic Aesthetics, a synthetic biology project run by the University of Edinburgh and Stanford University. Agapakis was curious as to whether there might be human origins to some of our modern cheese flavors. So she got to swabbing armpits, hands, feet, and noses, inoculated milk with the swabs, and incubated now bacteria-filled milk. She used identical methods to strain and press the cheeses, getting a variety of flavors as a result.
So what does armpit cheese smell like? It depends on whose armpit it is. Here were the results of Agapakis’ taste test:
Gross, huh? But before you think it’s too weird an avenue of research, bear in mind that Brevibacterium Linens, a bacteria ubiquitous on human skin that is responsible for what we think of as foot odor (think dirty gym socks), is also one of the most popular bacteria used in cheesemaking and is responsible for the distinct red rinds of many great cheeses, such as Epoisses, Munster, Reblochon, Limburger, Port-Salut, Raclette, and many more.
Mint and Cheese are rarely paired, and to be honest, I think that’s probably a good thing. The aspects of mint that marries it well with fruit, acids or a bourbon-based cocktail — the fresh, bright, cooling, tingly qualities, the slightly medicinal aspects — make it a jarring blend with most cheeses. This unusual cheese, Muffato, may prove the exception to the rule.
A creation of cheesemaker/affineur Moro Sergio of Latteria Moro in Oderzo, Italy in the province of Treviso, Muffato is imported by Forever Cheese, specialists in cheese and products from the Mediterranean (you can hear an interview with Michele Buster of Forever Cheese on Episode 97 of Cutting The Curd).
A pasteurized cow’s milk blue cheese, the rind is coated in a mix of hay, marjoram, mint, thyme and verbena, and then aged in oak barrels. The pale yellow paste, dense and fudgy, is lightly marbled with blue mold. The flavor of the interior on it’s own is sweet, grassy, briny, with a peppery bite.
Tasting it with the rind, however, transforms the experience completely. While the outer rub is a combination of herbs and grasses, the mint is the flavor that dominates, and when combined with the paste becomes a complex blend of flavors. The mint seems to bring out the chocolate notes of the blue, so that the first thought I had upon tasting it was of a Thin Mint — in a good way, mind you. The piquant qualities of the blue mold blend nicely with the fresh notes of the mint, and the other herbs and grassy flavors temper the mint somewhat and bring their own notes to the profile.
Chris Melby, CSU professor and department head for the department of food science and human nutrition, and Tiffany Weir, food science and human nutrition assistant professor, have kept a tight lid on the proposal for a new major in fermentation science and technology.
They didn’t want a flood of students trying to sign up for the Bachelor of Science degree that may never come to fruition. There is that much demand for the proposed degree that still has at least four steps to go through before it is added to the 2013 fall semester offerings.
If the major is approved, CSU would be the first university in the Rocky Mountain region to offer such a specialized degree and could be one of three universities in the United States to have an undergrad program in food and beverage fermentation.
The program would prepare students not just for the beverage and food industry, but also in the science of human health and the fermentation process that takes place inside the human body, said Melby, who noted the major fits nicely with his department’s purpose.
The degree has been about a year in the works. Melby said staff identified fermentation as a hot topic at a retreat. The department agreed it wanted to broaden the area and the new major was born.
The rise of people fermenting their own food is tied to two trends. One is the health food market as people look to eat natural healthy foods. Second is the shift toward local as people are buying into community-supported agriculture as opposed to buying from corporate stores, Weir said.
Aside from beer, fermentation could benefit the dairy, wheat, beef, pork, lamb, grape, hop and barley industries. Northern Colorado is home to 10 breweries as well as MouCo Cheese Co., Leprino Foods and Noosa Yoghurt that could benefit from the degree. Other Colorado companies include bread makers such as Udi’s, which involve fermentation.
Read the full article here.
(Photo ©2012 Coloradoan.com)
Rogue Creamery has proven their mastery of the blues, not least with their ACS Best In Show-winning Rogue River Blue (they won in both 2009 and 2011), and their family of blue cheeses, including Flora Nelle, Smokey Blue and Crater Lake Blue, have been featured on Cheese Notes previously. Rogue Creamery has dedicated themselves to perfecting a range of blues, bringing different characteristics and flavor profiles to each cheese, and working for years to perfect them.
Caveman Blue’s origins go all the way back to 2002, when David Gremmels and Cary Bryant, the partners behind Rogue Creamery, began working on this cheese, soon after they had purchased the Creamery from the Vella family. The particular strains of Penicilium Roqueforti being used, and aging conditions needed, eventually led them to create a separate aging facility, just for the Caveman’s, so that they could perfect it without fear of contamination from the other blues. Caveman Blue is also their only natural-rinded cheese.
Caveman Blue’s name comes from the town of Grant’s Pass, guarded since 1971 by a gigantic statue of a caveman at the entrance to town, in honor of the nearby Oregon Caves National Monument. Rogue Creamery actually used the “Caveman” brand for their cheese as far back as 1930, long before Gremmels and Bryant took over the operations.
The natural-rinded, five-pound wheels are made using raw organic cow’s milk from a local dairy and aged for around six months. The golden-hued paste is fudgy and buttery in texture, scattered with blue-green pockets, occasionally oozing with golden liquid like the individuals cells of a honeycomb.
The Caveman is well-balanced, salty and sweet, a little bit more full-bodied than some of their other blues, but with a lovely buttermilky, nutty and grassy flavor, with a wonderful complexity and notes of tropical fruit, bacon, caramel, vanilla and a subtle peppery bite at the end.
Purchased at Murray’s.
Raw Cow’s Milk Bloomy Rind, a few days in, starting to develop the first patches of P.Candidum mold. This was my first test with a recipe from the new book Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide for Home-Scale and Market Producers by Gianaclis Caldwell, cheesemaker/owner of the award-winning Pholia Farms in Rogue River, Oregon and the author of The Farmstead Creamery Advisor (a MUST-read for anyone considering opening their own creamery or cheese making operation).
The recipe was for the “stabilized” bloomy rind cheese. “stabilized” might sound kind of industrial — and indeed, your run of the mill supermarket bloomy rinds that are sold as Bries and Camemberts are generally stabilize, but all it really means is that, by removing whey and replacing it with water at a key point in the recipe, you lower the acidity (raise the pH) and create a less soluble paste that will age more slowly and retain a fimer texture for longer, although you will also see some loss in complexity in flavor. Nonetheless, as Caldwell points out, there are many great cheeses that are made using stabilized recipes, including Cowgirl Creamery’s excellent triple-creme, Mt. Tam.
You can order Mastering Artisan Cheese through Chelsea Green Publishing.
The New York Times profiles Microbiologist Rachel Dutton, aka the scientist with one of the most interesting jobs out there:
For those who have made their way to her, Ms. Dutton is an exceptional find: a scientist who can explain arcane concepts in laymen’s terms, who dispenses her expertise pro bono, and who shares their fascination with good food.
Inside Harvard’s gleaming Northwest Science Building here, Ms. Dutton and two postdoctoral researchers, Benjamin Wolfe and Julie Button, have been culturing cheese samples for scientific scrutiny. In a large, open laboratory filled with beakers and centrifuges, the three work on isolating bacteria and fungi from cheese rinds, storing them in petri dishes in a modified refrigerator they call the cave.
Ms. Dutton, 32, started out as neither a cheesemaker nor a turophile (cheese lover). Her first love is science.
After finishing doctoral work on tuberculosis and E. coli, she began searching for a guinea pig to study the microcosmos. She needed a village of microbes that could help scientists understand how more-complex populations communicate and build microscopic societies that we macrobes depend upon. (After all, microbes take up residence in our homes, the soil, oceans and even within our guts, where they outnumber body cells nine to one and often prove essential to health.)
Her model organism had to be complex, but not so complex that it couldn’t be replicated in a lab. That’s when Ms. Dutton came across the cheese section in “On Food and Cooking,” and said to herself, “This is the community I have been looking for.”
In 2010, she began an ambitious five-year project to sequence, analyze and map the DNA of organisms found on 160 different cheese rinds from around the world. Viewed under a scanning electron microscope, these microbial villages can look very simple or highly diverse — as different as the ecology of Lincoln Center’s well-manicured lawn and that of the High Line before its flourishing weeds were tamed.
(Photo ©2012 New York Times)