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Behind the Rind: Champlain Valley Triple Cream

Behind The Rind Volume V: Champlain Valley Triple Cream

Cavemaster Cheese Weekly Releases

Batches Being Offered: Triple cream aged at Champlain Valley, Triple cream aged at Murray’s.

Desired Profile: Both of these cheeses have your characteristic bloomy qualities. They are buttery, mushroomy, and have a natural, normal, light ammonia scent present. The triple cream should have a heavy dose of mushroom, and the texture should be soft with a gooey creamline.

Actual Profile: This week we compared our Champlain Valley Triple Cream with a version of the same cheese aged at the original producer. In summation, our versions were closer to our desired profile than the producer versions (which follows their own standard profile). Our Triple Cream was a bit more buttery, more firm, and slightly less bitter than the version aged at Champlain Valley. Overall we are very happy with how our cheeses stack up compared to the original, award winning producer-aged versions.

sensory attributes for triple cream graph

Cheese Cave Spotlight

Bloomy Rinds and the Importance of Place

Here in the caves we divide our cheese into two large categories – the Cavemaster Reserve cheeses and the Cave Aged cheeses. The first category receives a lot of attention in these volumes of Behind the Rind. The Cavemaster Reserve cheeses are those that are most unique to Murray’s. Whether it is a cheese we mature in a fashion radically different from what the cheesemaker intended (I’m looking at you Greensward) or one we developed completely from scratch (Stockinghall!), there is no doubt that the Cavemaster Reserve line is one of a kind. But what about the Cave Aged series? What makes these cheeses unique to Murray’s? The answer to this question is far more subtle and elusive.
Although the Cave Aged cheeses represent a smaller number of cheeses in our caves than the Cavemaster Reserve series, their uniqueness should not be underestimated. First let’s define the term. The Cave Aged cheeses are developed and produced by another cheesemaker, are brought into the caves green, and are finished in the same style or manner as the cheesemaker originally desired. Quite a mouthful of a definition, I know, but we’re delving into the nitty gritty here. Two examples in this series are Hudson Valley Camembert and Champlain Valley Organic Triple Cream.
Both of these cheeses are developed as a P. camemberti (also known as P. candidum) molded bloomy cheese. Both Old Chatham (camembert) and Champlain Valley (triple cream) age their respective cheeses at their own facilities and make them available for sale. So why do we start these cheeses green in the caves and age them in LIC?
The answer is place. The conditions under which we age our cheese is unique to us. Our Bloomy Cave has a number of unique characteristics and quirks that cause the cheese to develop differently than it would back home. First we have a great deal of air flow in our caves (with the exception of Alpine). Due to the constraints of our heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system, we need to force air through the caves at a fast pace to maintain a constant temperature. In turn, our caves tend to be drier than you would find at other aging facilities. This leads to the moisture in our cheese to evaporate at a faster pace than elsewhere.
Some affineurs might have trouble aging cheese in this environment, but we embrace the challenge. If left unattended in this environment, both the triple cream and camembert run the risk of becoming overly bitter and drying out a very rapid rate. To avoid this, the caves team is constantly monitoring the temperature and humidity at each stage of development. This watchful eye has recently lead us to move triple cream into the Alpine Cave in its final weeks. You may have noticed this cheese has become creamier than in the past. As a result of this attention and the unique environment, our Cave Aged white-molded cheeses tend to be firmer in texture. In addition the buttery notes are more dominant than the mushroomyness (and yes it’s still a word).

Cheesy Science

The Science of Cream Lines

We all recognize the ripening pattern of cheeses such as brie, Champlain Valley Triple Cream, Humboldt Fog, and Greensward: as the cheese matures, a gooey layer forms just under the rind, with the center remaining solid. This gooey layer is referred to as the cream line. Most bloomy cheeses are at peak when the cream line is distinct from the firmer center. However, in cheeses such as Greensward or Harbison, the goal is to allow the entire cheese to turn into a cream line, so that the final texture is fudgy and spoonable.

A piece of Humblot Fog with robust cream lines

How exactly does the cream line develop?
The cheese surface microbes are major workhorses in the ripening process of cheeses that develop cream lines. When the cheese is initially made, its pH is relatively quite low (i.e., acidic) due to the presence of lactic acid that had been produced by starter cultures. In the case of bloomy rinded cheeses, molds such as Penicillium candidum (white furry mold) or the mold-like yeast Geotrichum candidum (wrinkly brainy appearance) busily work on the surface to break down the lactic acid and protein.

Vermont Creamery Coupole, a cheese with a Geotrichum candidum rind

Sometimes we help jump start mold growth, by coating the exterior of a young cheese with a layer of vegetable ash which helps to decrease acid levels. This is why Loire Valley varieties such as Selles Sur Cher, Valencay, and St. Maure are grey—the Geotrichum isn’t completely opaque, and grows through the ash layer. Conversely, Penicillium candidum is an opaque mold, so the outer ash layer on Humboldt Fog or Haystack Peak is visible when a cross section of a mature rind is cut.

Murray’s St. Maure, with its visible ash line below the rind

In rennet-set cheeses, calcium phosphate functions as glue that holds the casein structure together in the matrix. As the lactic acid is metabolized, pH increases, and calcium phosphate loses solubility. Calcium phosphate maintains equilibrium in the matrix, and gradually migrates to the surface as the pH increases. Fun fact: the calcium phosphate that migrates out of the matrix precipitates on the cheese rind. So the rind is extra nutritious!
Casein is hydrolyzed during early stages of protein breakdown, and the end products possess different water-binding (water activity) abilities. The changing water activity of the matrix, coupled with decreased levels of “glue,” results in softening. Over time, the softened portion (cream line) expands, from the outer portion beneath the rind towards the cheese center. Catabolism of both protein and lipid by surface microbes releases end products into the matrix, such as ammonia, amino acids, and fatty acids. Further breakdown of amino or fatty acids result in flavor or aroma compounds, such as methional (boiled potatoes, derived from the amino acid methionine). Cream line development continues after a cheese is wrapped and placed in refrigeration, which is why Greensward ideally will sit in cold storage for a few weeks prior to release to ensure complete breakdown of the matrix.
With acid-set cheeses, the mineral content is very low. Much of the calcium in the casein micelles was solubilized as the acid level increased in the milk during the cheesemaking process. As a result, there is very little “glue” in the matrix—which is why the texture of these cheeses is short and crumbly, such as with chevre and the Loire Valley varieties. For these cheeses (e.g., Valencay), the surface mold increases the pH, which in turn increases interactions between casein and water. The “hydrated” casein is the cream line.

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