October 19, 2011

Club Brings Cave-Aged Cheese to Cornell

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As visitors entered Statler 396 on October 13, the smell of cheese hit them like a brick. Of course, to the members of the Cornell’s Cheese Club, this enchanting, mysterious odor meant that they would soon be tasting some of the most delectable goods that the world of curds and whey has to offer.

The club conducts multiple tastings and events throughout the academic year. Ranging from cheese-making workshops to wine and cheese pairing events, the Cheese Club at Cornell makes high-end tastes accessible to all students. Bereft of any snobbery often associated with stinky cheese, the mold and culture experts keep events lighthearted and beginner-friendly. Most tastings are composed of cheese ordered specially from Murray’s Cheese Shop in New York City. Murray’s is the oldest cheese retailer in New York and has a rich history and impressive reputation. At their last tasting, the Cheese Club featured guest speaker Sascha Ingram, director of education at Murray’s, who brought six of the shop’s exclusive cave-aged offerings.

To the delight of her foodie audience, Ingram described Murray’s caves — underground vaults where choice cheeses are aged to perfection in a process called affinage. Murray’s receives most of its cheeses almost freshly made, and while affinage can’t turn a cheddar into a Brie, it instills that last bit of flavor and finesse that can make or break a cheese. Ingram balanced speaking to scientists and gourmets in the audience as she described the process of affinage and conducted a tasting worthy of all five senses. Attendees were encouraged to call out tastes or smells. Descriptions included “barn-yardy,” “vegetal,” “fermented” and “goat-y.”

The caves also allow Murray’s to experiment with different cheeses. “Little Big Apple” is a product of a local New York Triple Créme cheese and brandy-soaked apple leaves. During the aging process, the cheese is wrapped in leaves, instilling a fruitiness not unlike apple cider vinegar with just a hint of root vegetable. More traditional cheeses are also found in Murray’s caves. A gooey Epoisses contributed to the distinct odor in the classroom — the cheese is banned on the French metro because of the smell. The soft cheese spreads on bread like a thick pudding, tasting of decadent cream and cured meats. Another superb sample of affinage was the famed Upland Cheese Company Pleasant Ridge Reserve, which has a disputed age of preference among cheese experts. The low-salt, slightly sweet cheese has an air of grassiness. It is rumored that experts can sense on what plants Upland’s cows were grazing when their milk was used to make the cheese.

Next time you’re in New York, stop by Murray’s to explore the caves and find a perfect gooey treat.

Original Author: Claire Cipriani