Annelies Cheeses

Behind The Rind Volume IV: Annelies

Annelies Master Profile


Batches Being Offered: Batch “A” (1 Year Annelies) & Batch “B” (Extra-Aged Annelies)

Target Profile: Hailing from Northern Switzerland’s Appenzell valley, our collaboration with the legendary cheesemaker Walter Räss (more on that in the next section) is aged in his Swiss caves for two months, then in our Alpine cave for about nine months (or more in the case of our 2 year aged batches) before we release it. We notice a buttery, sweet, and yeasty quality in Annelies that reminds us of brioche bread. These flavors are usually accompanied by a hint of nuttiness & onion, consistent with the usual Alpine flavor spectrum.

Actual Profile: This week, we compared our current release of Annelies (Batch A -- currently about 12 months old) with a batch that we are aging out further (Batch B -- to be released as our Two Year Annelies). To our surprise, the younger version was more savory and oniony. We all really like this current batch. The extra aged version is forming some really nice tyrosine crystals and is still very much on profile. As expected, the texture is firming up a bit with age. We are really excited to release this cheese when it’s two years old.

Figure 1 – Spider graph of Annelies sensory attributes for batch “A” & “B”. Results are based on an average of 3 tasters. “Ideal Profile” represents a theoretical batch of Annelies that is perfectly on profile.

Cheese Cave Spotlight

The Story of Annelies

The story of Annelies begins with a world-class affineur and cheesemaker by the name of Walter Räss -- you may know of him from his most famous cheese, Challerhocker. Along with Challerhocker, in 2014 he began making a young cheese (3-6 months of age) that he only sold in his local village of Tufertschwil. As such this new cheese was given the convenient name of Tufertschwiler. And it is at this point that the many stories begin to diverge. Some say that a sample wheel of Tufertscwiler was sent to Murrays as a gift. Others believe that Walter personally delivered a wheel to the Murray’s Cavemaster. I have even heard it whispered that an unnamed employee smuggled it back from Switzerland in a suitcase. Those most likely to know claim that it was sent via the proper channels as a sample.

One of the many wheels of Annelies that ages in the Murray’s Caves each year

In any event, the wheel of Tufertschwiler was placed in the Alpine Cave. However, little documentation or labeling was left on this mysterious tomme (a generic name given to a type of cheese produced mainly in the French Alps and in Switzerland of alpine cheese). This did not stop the caves team from taking care of the cheese, despite no one really knowing where it came from. After several months of washing and flipping the cheese, it was eventually tried and found to be delicious. The paste was springy and sweet and small tyrosine crystals (learn more about these crystals in the next section below) were beginning to form. After a little investigation, the caves team was able to identify the cheese as a sample from Walter Räss and soon after, Walter himself returned for a visit to our cave. He tried the cheese, and agreed on the spot to start sending 20 wheels a month for us to age in our Alpine caves.

Annelies aging in the Murray’s Alpine Cave

While on the path to tastiness, Annelies was found to be at near perfection after spending nine months in the Alpine Cave. In September of 2016, Murray’s released the first Annelies to the world. Like its sister-cheese, Challerhocker, Annelies continues to grow in popularity and now the caves are filled with over 700 wheels of this unique and delectable cheese.

Cheesy Science

Crystals in Annelies: Getting Better with Age

A wedge of Cavemaster Reserve Annelies, the white flecks in the paste are emblematic of Tyrosine Crystals or “crunchies”

Many people are familiar with “crunchies” in well-aged Alpine and cheddar-style cheeses. Annelies is no exception, with these crunchy crystals commonly detected as the cheese nears a year of age. So what exactly are these crunchies?
As cheese matures, the carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids are broken down by microbes into small compounds. Proteins are composed of amino acids linked together into peptides. During protein breakdown (a process called proteolysis), these linkages are broken, releasing ammonia, small peptide fragments, and free amino acids. Although a variety of free amino acids have been detected in aged cheese, tyrosine is the amino acid most frequently associated with crystal development (i.e., the crunchies). These crystals develop as tyrosine molecules collide with one another; the more collisions occur, the more tyrosine molecules are attracted to the site, and eventually the tyrosine loses solubility (no longer dissolved) within the cheese matrix. At this point, we detect the crystal when we eat the cheese, or in other words, we get that satisfying crunch in each bite! The longer a cheese ages, the more extensive the proteolysis, which is why we don’t detect any crunch in a young version of Annelies.

As of now, more research is needed to confirm the mechanism behind the development of tyrosine crystals. However, data (albeit circumstantial) have shown that Lactobacillus helveticus (a type of bacteria commonly active in maturing cheese) is closely associated with tyrosine crystals. L. helveticus cannot make or break down tyrosine, so tyrosine is released as this bacterium utilizes peptides created during proteolysis. L. helveticus may not itself be active in the cheese—its peptidase enzymes may remain active even once the bacterial cells have lysed. Tyrosine crystals likely form in discrete patches, either around L. helveticus or where it had once thrived. So these crunchies are like little, delicious gravestones.

If you love the crunch of the Tyrosine Crystals in Annelies, check out Roomano, and extra aged Gouda

If these crunchy crystals are your thing, you should know that this process can also be found in extra aged Goudas such as Roomano (aged for 3 years) as well as Clothbound Cheddars such as Montgomery’s Cheddar from Neal’s Yard Dairy (aged for 12 months minimum) or our very own Stockinghall Cheddar.

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