For centuries cheesemakers, cheese maturers and cheesemongers alike have been using a tool called the Cheese Iron. The Cheese Iron allows a wheel of cheese to be inspected for quality without having to cut into it. Once a wheel is cut, it begins to die, and if cut too soon, it will never achieve fruition. The key is to let the cheese reach its fullest potential before cutting into it. The Cheese Iron takes a core sample of cheese from the edge to the middle. The sample is a key indication to the degree of maturity through taste and smell. It also gives a visual as to the texture and moisture levels of the wheel. At this point any defects in the cheese will be spotted. The cheese core is then plugged back into the wheel and sealed with a moist piece of cheese, taken from the tip of the cheese iron. The cheese is graded and placed back on the shelf for further maturing. However, if the cheese is ‘au point,’ (at the point of perfection) it will be cut fresh to order for customers.
What is a Cheese Cave?
Our cheese cave is where we ripen our cheeses. At The Cheese Iron, we have built Scarborough’s first “cheese cave” specifically for the process of maturing cheeses the right way. A cheese cave is an ideal environment for cheese, it is both temperature and humidity controlled, and offers the right degree of circulation necessary for cheese maturation. Beyond the physical environment, it takes daily care from a knowledgeable cheesemonger to rotate the wheels, turn and clean the cheese and to have an under-standing and insight into cheese maturation. The cheesemonger must use all five senses to determine if a cheese is ‘au point’ (at the point of perfection). Affinage is the practice of ripening to the point of perfection. It is an ancient practice by which the cheese professionals complete the cheese maker’s labor of love, patiently nurturing each of the cheeses to optimal ripeness and peak flavor. When a cheese becomes ‘au point,’ we transfer it to our cheese counter, where it is cut fresh to order.