Cheesemakers use art and science to create the most intricate flavors

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) /

While the cheese plate may be an entertaining staple, the reality is that cheesemakers need a deft hand in creating that particular flavor. Although many people might think that only the milk influences the mild or sharp notes in a cheddar, the varied notes come from a different effect. Just like a fine wine matures over time, cheese and aging process are perfect bedfellows.

The vast and varied world of cheese can be more overwhelming than watching the Packers throw away a game because of a blocked field goal. While it takes the artisan cheesemakers years to perfect their craft, one element is part of every conversation. Aging impacts the resulting deliciousness that arrives on people’s table.

According to Kate Neumeier Clarke, President and COO of Wisconsin Aging and Grading the aging process is a way of pampering the cheese so that it presents itself in the best possible light. In a way, that round is like an A-Lister in the eyes of the maker. While Hollywood might want the calendar to turn backwards, cheesemakers are happy to tally day after day.

Clarke goes on to explain the process. “The cheese has a special suite to hang out in at a regulated temperature perfect for that particular cheese. It’s checked in on regularly. If at any point the cheese is uncomfortable it can be attended to in a different suite. Perhaps the client next to it isn’t ideal and emits a strong aroma; we’ll adjust the arrangement, so all cheeses are content. Off flavors can happen in 15-20 days, so we consistently work to provide a quality product, which requires a lot of attention. All our cheeses are treated the VIP way. When pampered sufficiently it’s time to go out into the world. We have given it the opportunity to reach its potential.”

Without the aging process, that wedge of cheddar, the slice of gouda or even that pungent blue cheese would be bland and boring. Fluctuating the temperature, humidity, and other storage environments will be materialized in the flavor. There is a reason why one cheese has a nuttier note and another one has a caramelized sweetness.

In some ways, the craft and art of cheesemaking makes some people to support a particular company over and over. Those unique and distinct flavors come from overseeing the aging process. Just like a conductor makes the symphony produce melodic music, the cheesemaker brings the best flavors from the cheese.

Next time someone says that age is just a number, tell them to cut off a piece of cheese and ponder that statement again.

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