The Art of Ageing Gracefully
At Milawa, we get excited about offering you cheese that we’ve identified as ‘ripe and ready’. What exactly does this mean? To find out, let’s have a look at some Milawa Brie and Camembert – two cheeses where timing is everything, for both taste and texture.
Brie and Camembert begin their lives quite firm and uniform in texture. In the cheesemaking room, we encourage a white mould (Penicillium Candidum) to grow on the surface of the cheese. This forms the soft, bloomy rind of the cheese, and is critical in its journey to ripeness. A full blanket of beautiful, bloomy white mould is vital for the longevity of the cheese and, over time, the mould works from the outside of the cheese towards its centre, breaking down proteins in the curd, making it all soft and gooey. You’ll notice that we often wrap young white-mould cheeses in a special silver paper, which has tiny perforations in it. This wrapping allows the white mould to continue to grow – and the cheese to continue to mature – even once wrapped.
The work of the mould changes not only the texture of the cheese, but the taste. As the cheese ripens, it gives off a more and more pungent scent, which resembles ammonia at its peak. Ammonia may sound like an unpleasant indicator, but it is one of a tapestry of flavours and aromas found in white moulded cheese. Personal taste will dictate your preference – in a Brie or Camembert the flavour changes from a sweet simple milkiness to more complex layers of earthiness, which may remind you of mushrooms, chestnuts or hay.
There really is a beauty to every age of cheese, and everyone has personal preferences. If you prefer your cheese milder, ask the cheesemaker to select a young cheese; if you prefer a more complex flavour and luscious texture, ask for a more mature portion. At Milawa, we often have many examples at different ages available, and are more than happy to talk you through them. If you don’t happen to have a cheesemonger nearby, you can also tell the age of a cheese by touch. Give it a bit of a squeeze between your fingers if it is firm and has little give, it’s young; if it yields and has suppleness, then it’s mature. Quite a similar experience to picking an avocado.
So, when you’re selecting a cheese, have a think about not only the style of cheese, but the age you’re looking for. It may come down to creating the perfect pairing – be it a baguette with Brie and cured ham, or Camembert with a good friend and a glass of wine. Enjoy!