June 30, 2023

The art of aging cheese

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The art of aging cheese

Older cheeses taste stronger, as their flavor is intensified during the aging process. However, you can’t just leave a cheese to age randomly, or it may simply become inedible. Here is why, and how, maturing cheese can improve its natural taste.

Roquefort papillon platter

The conditions needed for cheese to age properly

There are several requirements for aging cheese properly, depending on the type of aging needed. The first is to add an aging component, which can be:

  • Acid or rennet, to break down the proteins and release flavor compounds.
  • Penicillium, a small fungus which grows into the edible mold that constitutes the rind of soft ripened cheeses and the blue veins of blue cheeses.

These different aging processes need controlled environments, where temperature, humidity, and air flow, are monitored strictly and constantly.

Esquirrou platter

The breaking down of casein proteins to increase flavor

Chemical reactions take place during the aging process, where caseins and fats break down in contact with enzymes. This process changes both the texture and the taste of the cheese, adding new flavors. It’s partly why cheese becomes harder and tastier as it ages. It also makes it easier to digest, because our digestive system doesn’t have to break down those components itself.

Dorothy comebackcow

The growth of edible mold

Mold isn’t just the prerogative of blue cheese. The rind of your favorite cheeses, such as brie, camembert or Dorothy’s cheeses, is formed from a different kind of penicillium, the fungus that’s used to grow edible mold on cheese during the aging process.

Penicillium roqueforti is mainly used for blue cheese, while other types, such as Penicillium camemberti, are used for soft ripened cheeses. These fungi need the right levels of humidity and air flow to bloom. Where the humidity is too low (less than 90%), the cheese may dry out and no rind will form.

papillon roquefort focus pear grape nuts

The careful monitoring of aging cheeses

During this whole process, cheesemakers carefully monitor the conditions and the taste of their cheese. It is tasted frequently so that each batch hits the market at just the right time.

If you’re interested in the numerous tests carried out during the cheese aging process, read our article about cheese sensory analysis.

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