Observations in the Affinage

It’s been nearly 6 months since I assumed full responsibility for Pascal Affinage. I’ve become a dedicated cheese washer and meticulous cleaner – those of you who have spent many years coaxing milk into beautiful, luscious cheeses can relate. But it is not a life of tedium. When I enter the aging room in the morning, its shining floor and orderly arrangement welcomes me. I love order! A peak into the cave rewards me with the glow of cheese wheels showing off the texture and hues of an evolving microbial community. In a way, its like observing the daily changes in your garden – watching the cheese develop its rind.

Cheese washing itself is a Zen-like experience. The flip, brush, and gentle muslin wash become a rhythmic nurturing from a human to a special food to feed fellow humans. The wash gives the affineur (can I call myself that?) an opportunity to closely observe each wheel. Some have a rim of dark cream overlapping circles of rind on the edge of their faces. Most faces burnish with a lovely deep gold.

The sides have a stippled design of texture that confirms the finishing process is well under way. I wish I had a microscope to reveal the plethora of organisms that are doing the hard work of creating our signature alpine-style cheese.

It is a little nerve-wracking, having to wait at least 8 months to cut into a wheel and see if my taste buds confirm this is the Teetoos we strive to create. And this make will be the first one I have cared for ever since its arrival in Portland, having been shipped from its maker, Chris Roelli, of Shullsburg, Wisconsin. Those creamy white fresh wheels that entered the cave in November have a sturdy rind now. We just need to let the flavor bloom for another 5 months – then cut a wedge, savor it, and see if I would have met Patrick’s approval. If love can make it happen, this cheese will be fantastic!