What is aged cheese? Every enthusiast and even the average cheese lover will ask this question once in a lifetime. You like a good aged Gouda, a ripped parmesan, and some magnificent Gruyere, but you finally got the need to find out why that is.
- Why are some cheeses being held from us before we can access their goodness and taste?
- Are they better that way?
- Is fresh cheese worse in some way?
- Is aged healthier?
These are the questions that we’ll go over right now, so you broaden your cheese knowledge and become a real expert at last. Let’s dive in.
Cheese has been around for a long time; let’s get that out of the way. The techniques used for such processes have changed drastically. It is an art form of sorts, but we are, after all, talking about food and food needs to be regulated. People experimented with cheese aging in many places: caves, cellars, and many other locations that are not sanitary options today.
But don’t worry, traditions are stronger than regulations. Some cheeses are still made the old way like the Roquefort, a blue cheese that must be aged in specific caves in south-western France. One thing that all the traditionalists have to agree on, though, is that the refrigerator was the invention that changed the game for everybody.
Sure, a cave is probably the best place for cheese aging that nature offers, but the controlled conditions that refrigeration can give us can’t be paralleled. The 20th century was a time of great innovation, and the cheese-making business was positively affected, just like everything else was.
How it’s Done
Making cheese is the first step of actually, well, making cheese. Aging is a factor that is important for all cheeses, and it comes after the initial process. It can take from 3 weeks to two or more years. And the word “more” in that sentence is the important one.
During the aging process, texture and tastes are being created, which most of these cheeses are known for. The process includes many factors. The enzymatic process being the most important one after, of course, the bacteria. Through all of this, cheese goes through a couple of stages. First of which is slowing the surface of it to grow mold, which allows fungi to occur.
This is because fungi are much more biochemical active that the bacteria the cheese started with.
Some cheeses are ripened on the inside more so than the surface, like the Stilton. All of this can influence the look of the cheese quite a lot. For instance, Brevibacterium linens’ growth gives the cheese an orange coat, not to be confused with say a Cheddar that is orange and yellow for different reasons.
All these methods can provide many features some cheeses are famous for. One that we must mention would be “Eyes.” It’s kind of a fancy name for holes that you can find on Swiss-type cheeses, and they are bubbles of Carbon dioxide that are made thanks to bacteria in the cheese.
Fresh VS Aged
All cheese apart from fresh kind is aged. It’s what gives it flavor and specific characteristics. That’s also why some people who are used to one type of cheese find the other one either too bland if you’re into aged cheeses or too firm and vice versa. The taste of aged cheeses depends on a couple of things:
Casein is the protein found in all mammal milk and, depending on what kind of animal the milk came from, the said protein affects the taste in one way or the other.
To be more precise, the fat acids affect the taste quite a bit, considering that these acids are an essential part of ripping in the first place.
Last but not least, brine, which is quite salty. A kind of salt solution found in milk, to be precise. Brine affects cheese, not while it’s made, but as you’re eating it. It mixes with your saliva as you are eating it, and that mixture gives your taste buds information that tells your brain how moist the cheese you are eating is.
Cheese isn’t usually found in a list of the healthiest foods. Sure it isn’t considered to be mostly lousy food or unhealthy by any extreme means, but you’re not going to get advice that says you should munch on some cheese to live longer. And you really won’t get that advice if it’s a conversation about aged cheese. But should that advice be given? Let’s find out.
- Weight Loss
That’s right. You can lose weight by eating aged cheese. Well, maybe it’s not that simple, but in comparison with fresh cheese, the older, the better for losing belly fat.
- Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a gateway to many diseases and life-threatening, and you can help yourself by… eating aged cheese. Dairy products have been linked with lowering blood pressure for a long time, and aged cheeses have been shown to the job quite well. Just don’t expect it to replace your medication any time soon.
Now there has been a myth going around that cheese can cause you to get high cholesterol. And while you should be careful with any food and nothing should be munched on excessively, cheese does not cause high cholesterol.
Now that we updated your knowledge of aged cheeses a bit, we give you some tips on buying, storing, and eating the stuff. This could be the most important part!
- Buying Aged Cheese
Buying cheese should always be a painstaking task that is well researched. Don’t just go to the supermarket and buy something expensive. In the world of dairy products, expensive doesn’t always mean quality. Checking the declarations is a must when purchasing in stores, but the manufacturers put words that can confuse experts also. A cheese shop or a specialty market is your best bet when hunting for cheese. Get it from someone who knows what they’re talking about while selling you cheese.
- The Amount
How much cheese you buy is as important as what kind you’re buying. You should always buy the amount that you or your family can eat in a few days. Your house probably isn’t a storage unit that was made for aging cheese, and you shouldn’t use it for that anyway. But that brings us to the next point.
If your cheese was wrapped in plastic when you bought it, wrap it right back up after using it. If it was covered in waxed paper, get some extra darn waxed paper! Cheese is an organism, and if you leave it, it will dry out, pick up other smells from your fridge. You don’t want to grab a slice of cheddar just to bite into it and get a mouth full of dry cheese that has a leftover taste!
If blue or green mold starts to appear on your finely aged cheese, cut it off. Just make sure to make a cut about two fingers under the mold to make sure you got rid of it. Even if you passed the expiration date on it, as long as the mold is on the surface, the rest of your beautiful aged cheese should be sufficient.
- When to get rid of it?
If your cheese has started to smell, throw it. If the texture is completely dried out or if it’s turned spongy, get rid of it. This thing should be taken seriously, and your health is number one. It’s not that hard to get another wheel of cheese from the shop.
So there it is, our little 101 for aged cheeses, and some general cheese knowledge packed for you! Now that you’re ready, get out there find yourself a good shop and a delicate aged cheese beauty, and have a great time.