Hollander Cheeses

Behind The Rind Volume III: Hollander

Hollander Master Profile


Batches Being Offered: Batch “A” & Batch “B”

Target Profile: A big portion of Hollander’s flavor originates from our environment on Borden Avenue. The multi-colored rind is a combination of the different molds that grow in our natural cave. These molds combine to create a mushroom-like flavor at the surface. As the enzymes from these molds do their work, the cheese becomes very savory and buttery. We also notice a roasted cashew quality that intensifies as the cheese ages.

Actual Profile: When looking at the two tasting profiles in Figure 1, you will notice a couple trends that we’ve seen in recent Hollander releases. Both batches of Hollander are significantly softer and more buttery than usual. Batch “B” has a little less cashew, more mushroom, and more acidity than Batch “A”.

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

Cheese Cave Spotlight

Hollander, a Wild Expression of the Natural Cave

Hollander Aging in Murray’s Natural Rind Cave

Often when we talk about the differences in our four aging caves (Natural, Bloomy, Alpine, and Washed) we talk about the differences in environment – mainly temperature, humidity and air flow. However, as the names of these caves suggest, the differences can also be thought of as the style of cheese which thrives in each of these environments. And by extension they can also be differentiated by the approach to affinage (aka cheese care) that is practiced in each cave.

On the far end of the spectrum is the Washed Rind Cave. In this room, cheeses are washed in a salt solution of some type. This treatment inhibits mold growth and promotes yeast and bacterial growth. The end result is a cheese that could not possibly be in existence without the persistent intervention of the affineur (those who care for the cheeses). This is the most active form of affinage.

A slightly less interventionist form of affinage takes place in the Alpine Cave, where cheeses are washed primarily to keep the rind from drying out. The washing is far gentler than the actual scrubbing away of mold that occurs in the Washed Rind Cave. Next in the spectrum is Bloomy, where the cheese is encouraged to grow the mold present in the cheese paste. Here the cheese is flipped to ensure even ripening, but conditions are tightly controlled to favor the inoculated microbes rather than those present in the environment.

And lastly we have the most hands-off approach in the Natural Cave. Cheeses here are encouraged to express the microbes present in the cheese as well as those present in the cave itself. These cheeses are an expression of place, both from the local of the cheesemaker and the cave here in Long Island City. As such, the natural rind cheeses exhibit a great microbial variety that is constantly changing. And Hollander is fantastic example of this diversity, showing traces of its intrinsic biome, the molds that were used to setup the caves, and hints of cheeses that once sat on the same shelves.

Hollander Aging in Murray’s Natural Rind Cave

Cheesy Science

Hollander Rinds: an Ugly Duckling Cheese

Hollander usually spends about 8 weeks in our Natural Rind cave. During this time, the cave’s resident molds take turns occupying the surfaces of the cheese. A finished Hollander typically shows a wide variety of mold species that represents the diversity of this cave’s microbial population. However, it is not random which molds occupy the developing rinds at a given time. Although the temperature and humidity levels of the cave encourage mold growth, individual species have more precise preferences that will dictate if and when they will grow on a cheese.
“Mucor” is a general term we use to refer to a group of molds belonging to the Mucor genus. Although this genus includes approximately 50 species, the most common species seen on our cheese is Mucor racemosus. This mold grows as fuzzy gray tufts, and is therefore commonly referred to as “cat hair mold.” In addition to mucor, members of the Penicillium genus are the first molds to appear on a young cheese rind in the Natural cave. I often refer to Hollander as an ugly duckling cheese, since it doesn’t look terribly beautiful during its earliest stages of ripening. But affinage involves the activities of a many microbial species, and the ugly phase is necessary to set the stage for the deliciousness.

In the case of Hollander, you may notice batch to batch variation in rind color, as influenced by primary mold present. Although we always see both mucor and Penicillium species growing on young Hollander, they do not always appear at the same time or in the same proportions, and whichever one dominates can heavily influence the coloring of the rind. Two young batches currently in the cave are only 2 days different in age, yet are excellent examples of different primary mold growth patterns as influenced by initial cheese composition.
In the photo above, the batch on the right (gray fuzz, Batch A) contains approximately 3% more moisture than the batch on the left (white fuzz, Batch B). Not surprisingly, Batch A’s water activity is also higher, and this batch is much softer than Batch B. Water activity is a measure of how “free” the water is, so generally speaking, the higher the water activity, the more available it is to move in the matrix.

Mucor appears to outcompete Penicillium in an environment of higher moisture, suggested by the gray furry surface of Batch A. Regardless of whether Penicillium or mucor dominates as primary molds, we normally see Sporendonema casei (orange splotches) and Chrysosporium sulfureum (yellow and chalky) appear during the later phases of Hollander development. Even though early rinds may appear unremarkable or even unappealing, the mature colorful Hollander rinds are wonderful indicators of a robust and diverse microbial population in our Natural cave!

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