ACS Body of Knowledge – Domain Three – Cheese Ripening – Bullet Points
- Use ACS BOK – Domain 3 – Cheese Ripening
- Study Max McCalman’s section on Affinage in Mastering Cheese beginning on page 74.
- Check out the Comte USA video on the aging of Comte and the role of the Affineur.
- The art of Affinage (finishing/aging cheese) began as a part of the tiered system of small farmers handing off their young cheeses to larger dairy coops and their Affineur (person who finishes cheese and takes it to its peak ripeness and taste). This tradition continues today benefitting the small producers, giving them faster cash flow and marketing clout. (In Italy, the person finishing the cheese is known as a Stagionatura.)
- Affinage allows cheeses to ripen in their own time to bring out their best qualities. Affinage does involve science but it is also an art that is learned through experience, over time and a certain amount of creative instinct. The experienced Affineur will “sense” when his cheeses are ready; a “sense” that comes over time.
- Affinage includes knowledge of temperature and humidity to create the desired finished cheese and allow the growth of desired molds without spoilage.
- Caves and aging rooms must be cool enough to keep the cheese alive and well and warm enough to allow the growth of microflora needed to finish the desired cheese type.
- From Mastering Cheese: “Affinage depends on managing a set of variables with minute attention to detail. Among these variables are the setup of the cave; the temperature and humidity conditions (adjusted to proper levels); the duration of aging; and the type, degree and frequency of treatments.”
- Study temperatures and humidity for different style cheeses including bloomies, washed rinds, natural rinds, etc.
- Affinage includes turning wheels, brining, brushing wheels, washing wheels, patting rinds, tasting and smelling interior using a cheese iron. In hard, large-format cheeses, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, the Stagionatura will even “listen” to the cheese; tapping it with a special hammer to listen for holes, fissures and other defects. Today, larger facilities use X-Ray to exam the inside of wheels and robots to brush, was and flip wheels.
- Types of caves include:
Natural caves (e.g. Roquefort caves in France) – constant temperature and humidity with natural ventilation.
Manmade Caves – temp and humidity are controlled with precision; fans used to regulate ventilation. Built to mimic natural caves.
Bloomy Rind Caves – Used to house molds and yeasts specific to bloomy rind cheeses: Geotrichum candidum, Penicillium camemberti and Penicillium candidum.
Washed Rind Caves – again to house specific bacteria that grows on washed cheeses.
Natural Rind Caves – higher moisture to encourage growth on young rinds and prevent cracking. Mites may be present – understand how mites are helpful and how to control them to prevent over-popultion.
Large format (such as needed for Alpine-style cheeses) – warmer temperature to encourage enzymatic action deep in the cheese. These cheese age longer and have longer shelf lives. More for maintenance of cheeses and to prevent growth of unwanted mold on the rind. Alpine-style cheeses are usually washed on occasion to hydrate the rind rather than encourage the growth of B. linens.
Cold Storage – fully aged cheeses are kept in cold storage until sent out to distributors or sold to consumers. FIFO rotation is important here.
Drying Rooms (especially for bloomy rind cheeses) – first stop before going into aging caves. Fresh cheeses arrive with higher moisture and need to dry out a bit before affinage begins.
Coolers – generally last stop before cutting and wrapping. Coolers temp and humidity is easily controlled to prevent spoilage. Again FIFO is critical here.
- According to Will Studd, temperatures for aging most cheeses are warmer than that in a home refrigerator: 10-14°C (50-57°F). Blue cheese likes the lower end of that scale (10°C or 50°F). (I have seen different numbers from different sources. Refer to ACS BOK for more definitive numbers.
- According to Will Studd, humidity for aging also depends on the cheese and can be from 80 to 95%.
- Review and understand aging and treatment of bloomy rinds, washed rinds, natural rinds, blues, large formats.
- Understand use of wood planks in aging process.
- Review and Understand 7 Steps of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points)
- Review and Understand Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
- Review and Understand Sanitation Standard Operating Practices (SSOP) which include proper use of 3-Compartment sinks; cleaning, washing, rinsing, sanitizing and air drying.
- Review and Understand Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
- Review and Understand Good Retail Practices (GRP)
- Review and Understand Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA)
- After aging and release to distributors and retailers, cheese must be stored in temperatures no higher than 38°F and no lower than 34°F (Cold storage). The cheese will continue to age; therefore rotation and quality control in cold storage continues to be mandatory.
- Improper affinage can result in the growth of harmful pathogens. The big three are E Coli 0157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella. Two other pathogens to know are Campylobacter/Campylobacter jejuni and Staphylococcus Aureus.
- Organisms that can cause spoilage include:coliforms,pseudomonas, andclostridium. Study and know the basics of each of these. Cheese chemistry and ripening include three major chemical processes:
- Glycolysis: The breakdown of sugar into lactic acid.
- Proteolysis: The breakdown of proteins.
- Lipolysis: The breakdown of fats.
Terms to know:
Affinage Affineur Amino Acids Bacillus Bacteriophages (aka Phage) Brevibacterium linens (B. linens) Brining Campylobacter/Campylobacter jejuni Cheese Iron Cheese Mites Clostridium Coliforms Desiccation E Coli 0157:H7 Esters FIFO GMO GRP Geotrichum candidum Glycolysis HACCP Lipolysis Listeria monocytogenes MSDS Mucor Micelli OSHA Pathogen Patting Penicillium camemberti Penicillium candidum Proteolysis Pseudomonas SSOP Salmonella Staphylococcus Aureus