Feb 1, 2024 | Artisan Cheese, Specialty Cheese

It’s that cozy time of year. Winter sets in. Skies turn cloudy with rain or snow. Time to stay indoors.Food thoughts turn to soups and stews. Heavier bodied foods seem more satisfying, like putting on an extra sweater, Extra calories were a human protection from frigid temperatures.  More layers of clothing and yes, even fat, may be healthy and desirable to survive harsh winters in some regions.

Another protection was a full pantry. Farm and dairy communities look to the pantry for foods that were put away the past summer. Jars of vegetables, fruits, meats and aged cheeses are examples of preserved foods. Cheese is humans’ oldest preserved food.

Cheeses made from spring or summer milks 6 months ago are now matured and aged into richer, deeper flavors and dense textures. Aging can be what helps a cheese achieve its full potential of complexity and body. Deep toothsome quality comes from the proteins, fats and minerals bonding together. Aged Goudas are the best example: from one month to 10 years old, so many amazing personalities from just one cheese type.

Delicious Gouda cheeseRinds are the essential in aging. Hard rinds develop protection for the interior paste during aging (Parmigiana), create shard-like chunks (sharp cheddars) and dense melty-tasting (Alpines).  Cheeses at 3-4 months stay mild; yet those aged beyond 6 months become  generous in flavors. Younger is milder and aged means bolder. European cheesemakers making 80-lb wheels of 12 month-old Gruyere would put aside enough curd to make 5 lb  “table cheeses” known as a “Tome” (TOH-m) or “Toma” (TOH-ma) for enjoying now. Families survived winters with a tasty young cheese while waiting for aging to finish its work.

* My book CHEESE LOVES WINE talks more about aged cheeses to find at your favorite cheese market with wine & food pairings too. There’s recipes for Fondue, Raclette and other melty cheese dishes. (View on Amazon)