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The Role of “Affinage ” in Making Great Cheese.

October 5, 2011

Just wanted to point out this story in the NY Times about the role of the “affineur”.  Is the quality of cheese really affected that much once the wheel is on the shelf?  Does all of that brushing and flipping and washing really impart anything noticeable?

ROB KAUFELT and Brian Ralph were standing in a cool underground bunker below Murray’s Cheese Shop in Greenwich Village, giving a visitor a tour of five temperature-and humidity-controlled cheese caves.  The man-made chambers, they said, prevent many of the things that can go wrong with cheese when it is not handled properly.

Take slipskin. If a mold-ripened cheese is stored in a place that is too humid or warm, the mold that coats the outside can “grow very aggressively,” said Mr. Ralph, 26, the cave manager at Murray’s. “It gets thicker and thicker and it peels away from the paste.”

Or if Cheddar is ripened carelessly, he said, “sometimes it can turn sulfuric, kind of rotten-eggy.”

Mr. Kaufelt, who has owned Murray’s since 1991, said, “If it’s too dry, it can crack.”

On the surface, the conversation might seem like a mere collection of scary stories about good cheese gone bad. But underneath it all, the two men were offering a glimpse into a topic that inspires both evangelical zeal and scoffing among hard-core fanatics of fromage.

 You can read the rest of the Times article here.  What do you think? Does it make a difference?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2011 9:17 am

    Absolutely, affinage makes a difference and sometimes the difference is dramatic. The soft cheeses that I buy from Anne Saxelby were noticeably more buttery and richer in flavor after she opened her cave in Red Hook.

    • October 5, 2011 9:19 am

      Couldn’t agree more. I find Steve Jenkins perspective surprising to say the least…


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