Well as it turns out, it took me a week or so to get to those brownish, fuzzy, kinda brutal looking Valencays that I aged in my cellar for a couple months. And as it turns out, I was wrong. They were not dead, bad, or past. They were SUBLIME.
The reason I was cellaring these was to see where they go with age – whether there are benefits to the aging, and if so, what they are. Pretty straightforward. When I cut into this, it smelled of pungent but gorgeous blue cheese – like a stilton. It had a texture akin to a buttery mature soft cheese like a rich camembert. No runniness or oozy texture – very even creamy/buttery throughout. It was stunning, and nothing at all like the cheese when it was young. I went from a dry, soft, subtle, dense creaminess young, to a unctuous, gloriously stinky, mushroomy, blue-cheese-brie-esque funk with age. I was blown away. Beautiful stink and delectable texture – a marriage of stilton and camembert. It’s worth noting that the aged St. Maures I’ve tried had a hot acidity almost similar to chili to them – these did not.
So there you have it. Cheese awesomeness due to proper aging. Not dead. Awesome. I’m pleased.
Holly the cheesemaker’s thoughts: “Interesting that you find your Valencay in great form. This batch of Valencay must have went through a successful ripening process. Each step in the process of making St. Maure & Valencay (from draining and drying to ripening) determines the moisture content and therefore affects the ripening process and ultimately the finished product. As I have mentioned in the past, our ripening rooms are manually controlled and the humidity is most often affected by the weather and by the quantity of cheese in the ripening room (as the cheeses can put out a considerable amount of moisture and heat) and makes the control of the ripening process very difficult. Next year, I will be reducing the amount of St. Maure & Valencay that I make as these products take great care and observations to dry them to the correct amount of moisture and maintain the correct humidity around them in order to prevent losses (runniness under rind), short shelf life or inconsistencies in products. But like you mentioned before, this is what makes our products unique and each batch an interesting surprise!”