From Chapter 4, page 136 of Mary Karlin’s Artisan Cheese Making at Home
I could not believe it either. Every single Cheesepalooza Challenge since we began with the first one, August 1, 2012, has found my mouth agape and a sense of pride rising inside that I haven’t experienced since childhood. “Look what I did, mom!” But, I didn’t do it for anyone’s approval but my own. And I am so proud of my ability to age this cheese. Making it is not the hard part. We have that down pat. This is now our ninth Cheesepalooza Challenge. This one is all about loving those little lactating lumps into submission. It takes time, attention and care. But, if I can do it, anyone can. Seriously.
I have always set goals. I have always been in awe of one’s (and yes, even my own) ability to accomplish goals. Making cheese at home has been one of many items on the long “list” I realized was impossible to accomplish a few years ago. That was daunting. To always be able to add to “the list”, and know one day, it will happen, had brought much satisfaction to my hard working life. However, understanding that “everything that I was going to do when I grew up” cannot, in actually, happen was a painful realization. But, one day, it just became obvious. Poor health will encourage that inner conversation if it is a factor, and that is what happened to me. So much to do. So little energy. Where shall I spend it?
I am certainly not the first to face this dilemma. I don’t have any of the big name life threatening diseases. No cancer. Nothing like that. Just a host of auto-immune diseases that I don’t care to list. None too significant. Combined? Debilitating. So, when an opportunity is close enough to touch, and it is “on the list”, I grab that gold ring and hang on for the ride. Oh, what a ride this has been. Just look at the oozing buttery brie. I could not photograph it enough. It was not about the eating. Or even the tasting. This cheese was a success because it looks absolutely deadly delicious…
…but it didn’t taste good. The first week I rewrapped it, it was a yummy buttery bite (a little lick). After that, it was so bitter I cannot even describe how bitter. Usually, a cheese is not a success unless it is edible. This one succeeded because it looked sumptuous and I decided it was a work of art. What went wrong? Possibly two things: I think there was too much rennet and Addie thinks it is because the milk was passed its due date. It was delicious and had not soured at all. Yet, we made such a baby little batch that it was so hard to get the correct nano-mili-dash-pinch into the mix. It was easy to err with such a small batch.
Am I discouraged? Heck no. I would make it again in a heartbeat. However, cheese is kind of like travel. There are so many places to go, and flavours to meet that I will likely not make this one again for a very long time. I will make the French Brie, and Camembert and others, and keep learning and growing and traveling through the wonder of cheese.
It had a lovely, clean break: soft and pillowy curds that tasted like sweet milky air. Addie poured them into 4 croutin moulds and then salted them a little. They drained and drained and drained. For days. Too many days.
I kept them in the crottin moulds in the cave inside an aging box for over a week, and they just keep weeping. Why? I did unmould the knitted curd discs and place each on a mat, and within 2 hours they had spread to a frighteningly wide circular mass. I guided each mass back into a mould and continued to turn each regularly (two to three times a day) for the next week. Finally, I took each out of the mould in the ripening box, placed on a mat and below is the shape each formed. I continued to turn each daily. You can see the beginning of the white mold growing on the rind, as well.
Apparently, if the brie ages without being wrapped, according to Anna Olsen (at Christmas in November 2011), the mold will grow into long bushy tendrils… but, there was no evidence of this that I could find. She and her husband started cheese making with brie, and decided that it was better to buy it after their forays with making it. Not my experience. I am in awe. Wrapping the cheese contains the growth of the mold, and it is important to turn each disc often. Both cheese discs sat on the lid.
A ripening box is necessary for a cheese with aging with mold to eliminate cross contamination in the cave. To keep the moisture level high in the box, I soaked paper towels with water, and added a skiff of water to the corrugated bottom of the ripening box: perfect for this purpose. I placed a bakery ring on top of this to provide a breathing space, and a flat lid on top of that, that let the air circulate completely around it. The ripening box itself has a couple of air vents in it.
Each package must be opened and checked on weekly.
I was delighted by the texture, the mold, the feel (beginning to soften inside) and the sweet buttery aroma.
Remember, it is important to turn each disc often. Even though I was doing this, the little discs got bare bottoms. It seemed that whatever side was on the bottom, would loose its fuzz daily. The second week of the openings is below. Even softer and more lush!
I knew the time was past when I could open the cheese, yet, I hesitated. However, it spoke to me when it was ready. As I turned it over, it just oozed buttery goodness. Time to slice into the brie. I didn’t expect such luxury. The first day, it presented only a wee bitter after-taste once a lush buttery-softness nestled settled over the tongue.
It did need an extra hit of salt. Mmmmm!
By the time the Fourth Cheesepalooza Tasting arrived, the cheese was inedible. I proudly displayed it, anyway. It was a work of art. Yes, it was!