The Art of Affinage

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

Good morning moldy cheese! It’s back to the grind after a lovely long weekend. And what better way to get reacclimated to the work week than to rendezvous with a lovely chunk of cave aged cheese? The old coffers at Saxelby Cheesemongers are full of goodies thanks to the wonderful folks up at Jasper Hill Farm, who are aging cheese from all across the great state of Vermont.

The art of affinage, which is still on the upswing in this country, is the tradition of aging cheeses and coddling them along to perfection, washing them, turning them, and brushing them as they mature. For most farmstead cheese makers, this means strapping on their coveralls and rubber boots and heading down to their caves after an already long day of milking, cheese making, cleaning, and farm chores. Not that they don’t love to do it, but let’s face it, cheese makers are already some of the busiest folks on the planet. That said, the idea of having a dedicated cheese TLC person is quite an attractive thing indeed… kind of the equivalent of pooped parents hiring a babysitter for the night to give them a chance to rest and relax a bit.

That’s where Jasper Hill Farm enters the picture. Over the past year they have been constructing the largest series of cheese caves in the country in order to mature all manner of cheese from small farms across Vermont. From young and creamy cheese to old and moldering cheddars, the folks at Jasper Hill have the know how and passion to age it to the perfect point of ripeness. So now, nestled beneath the hills of Greensboro, Vermont, lie hundreds (soon to be thousands!) of wheels of cheese that are among the most delicious and exquisite in the world.

The first cheese to be moved into their caves to get the mold rolling was the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (see picture above!) The wheels are made at the Cabot Creamery, about 15 minutes away from Jasper Hill, and then trucked up the road to the cellars at Jasper Hill Farm where they will spent the next 10 to 18 months luxuriating in the damp humid air, growing mold, and getting tastier with each passing day. And that’s just the beginning. Over the next few months, more and more cheeses will be moved into the caves, ensuring a wonderful and delicious cacophony of queso for us to nosh. In addition to the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, we’ve brought back some little mixed milk tommes and stinky goat cheeses from Twig Farm, and rich and buttery washed-rind cows’ milk cheeses from Dancing Cow Farm, all aged at Jasper Hill. Which brings it back to you, cheese people. After the long Tuesday is done, I suggest you get yourselves over to the cheese counter to try a wedge or two fresh from the caves!

And just in case you need more cheesy fun for the weekend, the ever passionate Mark Bello, pizza guru and sometime cheese monger at Saxelby will be teaching a pizza making class this Saturday, January 26th. The class is a full day, including a market tour to shop for ingredients and a hands on pizza making class at Great Performances, a beautiful kitchen space in the West Village. For you pizza fanatics out there, you’ve met your match. For those of you who feel lukewarm about pizza, Bello’ll make a believer out of you!

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