Friday, June 1, 2012

Blue cheese and good friends

I'm not a true cheese connoisseur nor am I very good at selecting fine wines.  I do however like to visit with old friends and when my visiting brother suggested that we spend a sweltering hot Memorial weekend Sunday visiting Roane Vineyards and the Chestnut Ridge Artist Colony  in Spencer I thought that was a fine way to have a half-day staycation.  I am a bit ashamed to admit that we have been residents of Roane County since before both of these fine establishments have been in operation and even more ashamed that one of these establishments is owned by friends and it took special prodding to get me off the farm to finally attend one of their many open houses.  And what a wonderful afternoon it turned out to be.  Paul and Anna-Neale of Roane Vineyards offered a selection of red and white wines for tasting. One of the accompaniments to the red wine was an acclaimed blue cheese made by the Magtag Dairy Farm in Iowa (yes, THAT Maytag).  I've been pondering making blue cheese for a while and the thought of growing mold in a refrigerator on purpose sounded like fun.  Generally one purchases the dried mold culture from a cheese-supply house which probably contains enough mold to inoculate 100 pounds of cheese.  I did find a procedure on Fankhouser's cheese page that uses a bit of blue cheese whizzed in a blender as the innoculum so Paul kindly gave me a little plastic cup of the famous Maytag blue cheese for my experiment.  As the afternoon wore on I carried my little wrapped cup of precious, but melting cheese around in my pocket.  While visiting the artist colony, my little cup sat in a hot truck in the sun where it promptly liquified (or maybe I should say continued aging).

The next day I started a 2-gallon batch of the "base" cheese to which I would add my well aged blue cheese.  The base is a basic chevre or farmer cheese that is lightly pressed so as not to remove all the air but yet will hold together because the bacterial culture needs air to grow.  After ripening and hanging for a total of two days the cheese was ready to be inoculated.  I blended the cheese with a bit of water as per the instructions and poked air holes in the cheese with my sterilized phillips head screwdriver (also per the instructions).  I placed the cheese into a somewhat airtight plastic container and placed it into my cheese cave (wine chiller).

One is supposed to leave it open in the cave so that it gets plenty of air circulation without drying out but I didn't want to contaminate any other cheeses that may go in there so I'll have to tend it daily to make sure that any excess moisture is removed.  In a few weeks the culture should start to grow throughout the cheese.  After 60 to 90 days the cheese will be ready to seal (I'll use a vacuum sealer instead of wax) and sample then it can age in a regular refrigerator for several months longer.  If I can remember that it is hiding in the back of my fridge, it should be ready to eat by the holidays.  If you never hear about this cheese again, someone please remind me to look in my fridge just in case it actually turns into something edible.


  1. Very interesting. I was going to ask you to post about cheese making. I'm surprised the heat of your car didn't kill your starter bacteria.

  2. It might be deader than a doornail but if nothing else the cheese should still be fine. It just won't be blue.

  3. We enjoyed visiting the Roane Winery after spending time with you and then they sent us up to the Chestnut Ridge Artist Colony where we were blown away by Jeff Fetty's talent and passion.