Caring for my Camembert

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A better look inside my cheese aging box (day 5)

When I was choosing which classes to sign up for at The Art of Cheese, the one with bloomy rinds kept jumping out at me. This was a topic discussed at the Cheese Bootcamp but it was in the beginning of the course and I only attended the end. But, at the end of the bootcamp, Kate asked me if I’d like to take a wheel of camembert to age at home. Always being up for a challenge, I said yes.

So here I was not having learned anything about the creation or care required for this cheese and kind of flying blind. I can’t lie it did stress me out, but after some coaching from Kate through emails, I figured out that I was better prepared than I realized. We had learned how to age cheeses in the bootcamp so I found the paperwork on “How to make your own cheese aging set up at home.” After a little searching around my kitchen I found a few things to create a new home for my little camembert.

Example ripening boxes and mats from the Art of Cheese Bootcamp

I cut the top off of a plastic container that raspberries came in and fit it down into a rubbermaid container. Then I used the bottom part of the raspberry container as a tray for the cheese to sit in. This would create a stand for the cheese but also elevate it in the container so air could flow around it. I put my cheese in and put my new cheese house on the counter because I found out those first few days you don’t refrigerate camembert.

camembert aging set up

After about 2.5 days I started to see a little fuzz growing on my camembert wheel and was instructed to put my cheese container in the fridge (with the rest of my groceries). I also had another container set up with my blue cheese in the fridge and I wondered if they might compete to take over the fridge and the rest of my groceries but like I said, I was up for a challenge.

Camembert and it's blue cheese buddy during flip time

week 1 with my camembert

I flipped my camembert over each night for a week and there was fuzz developing all around but much more on one side than the other. I decided to seek help by emailing Kate again. I wondered if it might be time to wrap the camembert in the white shiny paper yet so I could stop tending to my cheese nightly for a “flipperroo”. She said to continue waiting for the even development of mold all around the wheel. It was also at this time that I made my reservation to officially attend the bloomy rind class a few weeks from then. I figured I should probably see how to make this wheel of cheese I’ve been tending to.

day 12 as I was tired of caring for it

video of the cheese flip

Click the link to Instagram to watch the cheese flip video!

time to go away for a few days

I meticulously took notes each night and did many photos and videos to track the progress of my project. It brought me back to my days as a scientist in the microbiology labs. Still there wasn’t much change in my little cheese with a bald spot. Another week went by and we were going to head out of town. I didn’t know what that meant for my little cheese friend, did it really need to be flipped every night? Once again I emailed Kate and she recommended to leave the “bald” side up while we were gone and just tend to it when we returned. We got home four days later and I was so hopeful that time was all we needed and my wheel would be totally covered in mold. Sadly it was not.

Only one week remained until I would attend my final class at The Art of Cheese. Determined to make this camembert not only be edible but aged to perfection, I continued to flip the cheese over nightly and take my notes. If it still didn’t look ready, I figured I’d bring it to the class and see what the teacher thinks. At least I’d be getting an A for effort! Sunday was here so I packed up my little friend in it’s cheese house and brought it on a field trip out to the farm.

collage of photos from 30 days of cheese aging

attending the Bloomy Rind class at The Art of Cheese

Kelly, one of Kate’s other instructors, was teaching the class that day. We’ve already reported on the step by step process in our Introduction to Hard Cheeses entry, link, so we won’t be getting into all that today but there were some terrific cheese facts that Kelly shared in class. I loved that she began the class by telling us that “Cheese is milk’s leap toward immortality!” What a terrific perspective!

Kelly in action at The Art of Cheese

She advised using good quality milk when making bloomy rind cheeses. I’d guess that’s because it’s more of a fresh cheese that is eaten only about a month after making it.

What would categorize a milk as good?
Farm fresh would definitely be up there on the list!

Does it need to be raw milk? No, and raw milk can be hard to come by. Kelly let us know that if we are looking to purchase raw milk in the USA, a good way to get around raw milk rules is to purchase a portion of a herd. Then it is classified as your animal and therefore your milk. Milk that has already been pasteurized would work in this process as long as it’s not ultra-pasteurized. That process causes the milk proteins to be damaged and then they are not able to stick back together to become cheese.

Can it be store bought milk? Yes, and in times when she uses milk purchased at the grocery store, she removes one cup of the milk and adds in one cup of heavy whipping cream instead to add more fat molecules. What an awesome tip! Oh and she added that the heavy cream can be ultra pasteurized, the cheese will still come out ok.

Then there was the history lesson about bloomy rind cheeses. Camembert was created in Normandy, France and now it holds the DOC license for cheese officially recognized as camembert. The original crafts-“men”, were peasant women, who used raw milk and native molds present in the air around. She also pointed out that as a new mom herself, she loved the idea of doing cheesemaking steps whenever you can and picking up when you have more time! Another funny factoid was that ash is sometimes added to cheese in order to keep the flies off it while it ages. Who knew?

I’ve been telling you all about my camembert but have you ever thought through the difference between brie and camembert? They are both bloomy rind cheeses which means they have that white mold (p. candidum) growing around them creating a rind. And for those of you saying, “Yuck! that white part is mold”, yes that’s true but if you don’t eat it, you miss out on half the flavor of the bloomy rind cheese.

There’s a few main differences between the two, first is the size. Camembert is smaller and typically created for you and your family to eat at home. Brie is usually larger and when you purchase it, the shape is a wedge instead of a little cheese wheel. Another difference is something we got to see while making the camembert. Once you cut your solidified milk into curds, you don’t stir them for camembert. Not stirring them will help keep lots of moisture in the curds. When making Brie, you stir the curds so that some of the moisture is removed from them.

As we went through the “monotony of cheesemaking” (one of my terms I laugh at from Kate in that first class) stirring, waiting and heating, etc., Kelly brought out some previously made wheels of camembert for us to see. Yes there was some cheese eating then too but I’m just putting together that she was showing us to see things to look out for in our own examples while we aged them at home.

camembert wheels going through the aging process

The first of her examples was wrapped in brown paper, seems fine except brown paper is usually used for aged cheese not camembert. She said the ripening process didn’t really work because of this and tossed the example out. There was another wheel that felt really soft when she “gently squeezed” the wheel of cheese in that white shiny paper. So it was aged using the correct paper, meant for camembert but she warned that if it gets too wet in the center of the wheel, it could taste like ammonia. Oh boo, I thought we’d want it to get as gooey as possible. Glad I found out! Luckily when she cut it open, it was okay and we passed samples around. It’s also possible to over ripen your cheese and have a really thick rind around it. That’s no good either.

time to scoop and hoop our camembert curds at The Art of Cheese

Once we put our curds from that day into the forms, referred to as “scoop and hoop”, the class was drawing to a close. Everyone was given their own little mold filled with cheese curds. Since I had already been aging mine and doing the process from end to start, I refrained from taking any. But here was my chance to ask about my little science project that I’d been patiently tending to.

Kelly knew that I had my cheese in hand that day, so I asked if she could look at it, critique it and discuss it with the class. She happily obliged. The wheel was almost exactly 4 weeks old at this point. She picked it up and held it in one hand, which I couldn’t believe after I had been so carefully handling it. It was ok though! And she said it felt like it was ripe in the middle.

Maria in the Camembert class and Kelly with my cheese

She first mentioned that in cases like mine where mold doesn’t grow in a certain spot, you can just spray more p.candidum on the outside to kickstart the growth. Unfortunately there wasn’t any spray mold around that day for her to use.

She then looked at my little aging house for the cheese. She said that my contraption didn’t have enough holes for air to circulate all the way around the cheese. It also caused a buildup of moisture on the lid. She solved the moisture issue by just wiping it off the lid with a paper towel. I didn’t know I was allowed to do that! She added a needlepoint round and spacer to lift the cheese up more and increase the airflow. She said we could have eaten it in class that day if I wanted or I could leave it “bald side up” , rotate it, but not flip anymore and give it a few days with it’s new aging house. This should be enough for the mold to grow and for me declare it ready!

Well that was all great news, I was on the right track!

the new and improved aging box with needlepoint round and spacer

A little time remained for us to taste more examples of bloomy rind cheese. We tried one that was the same age as mine and made from goats milk from their farm on the property. It smelled funky but not salty and it had a thick texture that coated my tongue. Kelly thought it could have used some more salt in the cheese making process. We tried another one with ash on the rind, that was also made with goats milk. It had salt and funk aromas with flavors of milk, salt and a nice texture. We all know that I could taste cheese all day and never be tired!

examples of bloomy rind cheeses during cheese tasting

Then there were two mainstream cheeses, St Andre and Haystack Creamery’s Cashmere. The St Andre had a buttery flavor and a soft texture. The Cashmere looked like something we all would strive for. Look at how runny it was! Sadly I didn’t like the flavor as much as the others that we tried.

No trip out to the Art of Cheese would be complete without going on a farm tour to visit the goats. It was almost breeding season then and the male goat was a little stinky but that meant it was just about time for another generation of goats there. What an exciting time!

Some of the female goats at Briar Gate Farm

So I know all of you are wondering what ever happened with my wheel of camembert cheese? How did it turn out? Did the mold ever grow? Well that’s going to be the topic of our next entry. I’ll give you a hint, the cheese came with us on an adventure. And that’s all until then…

Curious to see all those notes that I wrote each day?
Click this link to read the pdf file. Camembert cheese log

There's finally enough mold on my cheese to wrap it up in the shiny paper!

All ready to go on an adventure!

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