Loire Valley Cheeses

Behind The Rind Vol I: Loire Valley Cheeses

Valencay Master Profile

Target Profile: Valencay, a Loire Valley Cheese, becomes quite savory as it ages, with a slight mineral quality that intensifies over time. When the cheese is younger, it can have an apricot-like fruitiness. Additionally, it maintains a goat-like quality that speaks to its origins, including a dense paste that's lightly piquant, with the minerally notes of our Bloomy Rind cave.
Actual Profile: We tasted two different batches of Valencay at different ages. One batch was just recently wrapped in paper after a week and a half of aging, and the other batch had already been wrapped in paper for a couple weeks. We wrap these cheeses up young with the intention of having them reach their peak a couple weeks later.
After tasting these cheeses, we noticed clear differences between the young and old cheeses. Batch A was more acidic, fruity (apricot), and firm. The older batch (Batch B) was much more savory, more gooey (less firm), and less acidic. We prefer the Valencay with slightly more age, but both are enjoyable in their own way.

Cheese Cave Spotlight

A Field Guide to Murray’s Cheese Caves: The Bloomy Rind Cave

For those of you lucky enough to have taken a tour of the Caves at Murray’s in Long Island City, you’ll remember the Bloomy Rind Cave. This narrow room is nestled between the larger Alpine Cave and smaller Drying Room. As its name suggests, Bloomy is the final stop for cave aged bloomy rind cheeses before they are packaged for distribution.
Our Bloomy Cave is the coldest of the five caves at Murray’s with an optimal temperature of 48 degrees Farhenheit, and a relatively low humidity around 85%. This environment is ideal for slowing down the mold growth on its resident cheeses after they have been jump-started next door in the Drying Room.

Racks of cheese in our Bloomy Cave

There are two types of bloomy cheeses finished in this cave - those that grow the Geotrichum candidum found on our Valencay, and those that grow Penicillium camemberti. The Geo cheeses are the three Loire Valley goat cheeses in the cave aged series (Selles-Sur-Cher, Valencay, and St. Maure). These come to us directly from an affineur in France. Penicillium cheeses include our Camembert Squares and Hudson Flower (both from Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. in NY).
All of the cheeses in this cave are the youngest in the cave aged series, and are released within one to two weeks of arriving at Murray’s. As such, this cave sees a high turnaround: the cheeses seen here on a Monday will look a lot different than the ones on a Friday.

The Bloomy Cave

Cheesy Science

Loire Valley Cheeses and Ash: Cheerleading for Geotrichum

The surfaces of our Loire Valley cheeses (Valencay, Selles Sur Cher, and St. Maure) have a wrinkly, brain-like appearance. This is due to the growth of Geotrichum candidum, a mold-like yeast. However, these cheeses are only flipped, not patted, during affinage, which makes them distinct from other bloomy rind cheeses.

Racks of cheese in our Bloomy Cave

When we receive young Loires, they are essentially fresh chevre. Fresh goat cheeses are predominantly lactic, or acid-set. A small amount of rennet may be used in their production, but for the most part, the milk coagulated due to the accumulation of acid produced by lactic acid bacteria (LAB). These LAB are used as starter cultures, and convert lactose (milk sugar) to lactic acid. This process can take several hours, sometimes overnight depending on bacterial strains used. As lactic acid accumulates, the pH (a measurement of acidity; the lower the pH, the higher the acid level) of the milk gradually decreases (average pH of milk is around 6.8). Once it reaches a pH of 4.6, casein is unable to remain in solution, and it self-aggregates into a curd that becomes chevre. As a result, this cheese is quite acidic.

Geotrichum candidum survives and grows optimally at 77F, and prefers a fairly neutral pH, so it needs some help in getting established on young Loires. To do this, we dip the cheeses in a solution of vegetable ash before placing them on racks. The ash helps to increase the surface pH (decrease the acid) of the cheeses, thereby enabling Geotrichum to grow. Geotrichum candidum is translucent, and therefore the mature Loires remain gray in appearance.

Great example of a Geotrichum candidum rind on our Valencay

The affinage of Loire Valley cheeses involves a fine balance between drying out the young cheese and establishment of the rind. Once the cheeses are ashed, they live in the drying room for a few days.This room is, at this stage, more properly referred to as a hastening environment. Relative humidity is kept high initially (90-92% relative humidity), with an ambient temperature of 60F, in order to give the Geotrichum an optimal opportunity to grow. Cheeses start to turn more of a gray color by the second day, indicating that the ash has done its job and the mold has started to grow. For their final day in the drying room, we decrease the relative humidity to ensure that the rind doesn’t develop faster than the cheese can dry out. Young Loires require daily flipping while residing in the drying room, to prevent the rapidly-growing rind from growing into the racks themselves.
Once the rind is established and the cheese has dried out a bit, it moves to the cooler and dryer Bloomy cave (48F, approximately 85% relative humidity) where mold growth continues, but is slowed down in order to maintain shelf life. The Bloomy cave nurtures the rind wrinkles, and about a week later, the Loires are ready for wrapping. As mentioned earlier with the spider graphs, we wrap our Loires when they are still young, with the intention of them reaching peak profile within another week or so. Even in refrigerator temperatures, our special crystal paper allows Geotrichum to remain active on the rind. Wrapping cheeses before they reach peak ripeness helps ensure quality and deliciousness for our customers.

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Valencay 8 oz
Sainte-Maure 8 oz
Selles-Sur-Cher 6 oz