October 28, 2014

SAY CHEESE | What’s Up With This Cheese Crust?

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On October 1, Dean Garrick Blalock hosted a Farm-To-Fork dinner in the Flora Rose Dining Hall on West Campus.  As part of the event, he wanted a local artisanal cheese spread so he contacted the Cornell Cheese Club to have a tasting table and to be able to inform diners of the cheeses they would sample. I bought five different types of cheese from Wegmans, and one of the ones I chose was Keeley’s Across The Pond Cheese, because I literally have hands-on experience with it! Keeley herself is a part of Cornell’s Artisan Dairy Outreach program on top of being the owner of Keeley’s Cheese Co.  I have worked with her in the plant making cheddar, and have assisted with the production of her Across the Pond Cheese.

Across the Pond Cheese is a soft cheese with an edible washed rind, and the original recipe originates from Ireland (Keeley spent time working in Ireland on a farm!).  The most common eloquent question about this cheese, and others similar is “Is the rind edible?” However, it is usually blurted as “What’s up with this cheese-crust?”

The rind is the same cheese as the inside, it is just exposed during the aging process. Admittedly, cheese-crust is actually a decent name for it, because like bread crust, it is the outer-coating that surrounds the cheese as it is made. Yes, it is edible, although like bread-crust, not everybody likes it.

The rind forms with these types of cheeses because after the cheese is set into molds, it is washed with either brevibacterium linens or corynebacterium; simply put, the cheese wheels are washed with a culture to add taste, color, texture and for aging purposes. The key thing about this cheese culture is that it is salt tolerant, so the cheese is then washed with a combined mixture of salt water and vinegar, the culture stays but the cheese is cleaned of the dangerous microbes and fungi that are not wanted.

Voila, it is now a washed rind cheese! It then ages from the outside-in for a few weeks. This is the part where I personally vouch that it is a “stinky cheese” (the highly technical term used in the industry to mean “smells”) because even though it ages in a sealed controlled room, I can still faintly smell it when I walk past.

The cheese is made from cows milk and is creamy and delicious. Something about the hard rind with the soft inside makes me feel inclined to enjoy it in small thin slices with the usual pairing suspects: crackers, bread, fruit, or nuts. Because it is a stinky cheese, I feel like I enjoy the scent more in the context of other complementary food.  I do not think it will be available as a scented candle any time soon.

Keeley’s Across the Pond Cheese is made on a farm that is about 25 minutes north of Cornell’s campus, and a part of her family’s larger farm.  Her cheese is available for sale at Wegmans, at McGarr farm and the farmers market every weekend it’s open.