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Valencay Epiphany

12.15.10

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!”

8 Responses

  1. Maki says:

    I’m in awe that you are even aging cheeses! You seriously do it all. Fantastic Kevin. Really, hats off to you :)

  2. Barry says:

    Makes ya wish you put down even more doesn’t it. Glad to hear they turned out great, and just in time for the holidays. My address is….. haha just kidding. Seriously though, i can see ya sitting back with some apple wine, home-aged cheese, some of your cured meats enjoying life. Nicely done Kevin, kudos! You’re making me want to somehow figure out how to put a cellar in my garage lol.

    Cheers and Happy Holidays!

    ~Barry

  3. Outrageous! Fantastic! What did Holly say when you asked her about the mold? Did she have experience with the aging process of this cheese, or is she gaining it through you? I am so so so pleased that this was a positive experience. DId I take you through my basement? I have a huge unfinished part laden with my kids stuff… I do believe you had the tour. Would it be possible to transform a portion of this to a cellar like state? I ask not because I will be aging and making cheese – as much as I would LOVE to, but I think it would be too much for me to take on by myself… but, because I do think we could make our own sausages and I am definitely going to be doing a heck of a lot more fall preserving in the future (as I will have more time) and want to be able to have a storage space. Just asking your opinion…
    :)
    Valerie

  4. Maki – I don’t have a crazy hydroponics tomato setup like you do. I don’t do it all. ;)
    Barry – The cellar treasures have indeed increased our standard of living dramatically at dramatically little cost. Happy holidays to you too, and if you do live around here, perhaps we’re due for a visit in the new year?
    Valerie – if you search ‘post mortem’ you’ll get the post about the mold, and Holly’s response. I’ll be updating her current thoughts given this post shortly, as she has responded. This aging ‘program’ was initiated by me for development of product/eduction of product purposes, really. She knows her stuff, but what I’m doing is new to her and me.

    Yes, I remember your basement. There is a very good possibility you could build a cellar in your basement, if you have exterior walls to work with. Once you see my setup and have me walk you through why it was built the way it is, you should have a better idea how to tackle yours. I’d be happy to help conceive of the design and advise all I can! [note, canning needs a different environment than a wine/salami/cheese/veg cellar - too moist = lid rusting. more on this another time].

  5. Maki says:

    Correction. My hubby has the crazy hydroponics tomato setup :) Must be some gene in you men that causes all of you to do such things. hehe :)

  6. Barry says:

    “My hubby has the crazy hydroponics tomato setup :) Must be some gene in you men that causes all of you to do such things. hehe :)”

    Being a genetist by trade, yes we do have that gene, at least most of us :-)

    ~Barry

  7. Barry says:

    wow I cant spell

    Genetist = Geneticist

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