Artisan Aged Cheese, if anything sparks the imagination to display images of refinement, wine, high class, and candlelight dinners, it’s those three words. Artisan Aged Cheese can be aged anywhere from six months to 20 years, with the average age somewhere between a year or two. Aging reduces the moisture in the cheese so the dryness of the cheese is by design, so if you get some aged cheese, don’t expect something moist and silky.
Artisan Aged Cheese Trivia
- Cheese was first made over 4,000 years ago and by accident!
- Not all cheeses are legal to bring in to the United States due to health and bacteria concerns, these include cheeses that are unpasteurized and aged under two months. If you want aged cheese made with raw and unpasteurized milk, you can always turn to your local artisan cheesemaker.
- The reason most cheese names are capitalized, like Gouda, Parmesan, Camembert, is that these are also city names where the cheeses were named after.
- The most popular cheese in the United States is Cheddar Cheese, with its “sharpness’ an indication of the time it spent aging. Mild Cheddar is aged around 2 to 3 months while Extra Sharp Cheddar can be aged for as long as a year.
Artisan Aged Cheese Buying Guide
Artisan Aged Cheese, by definition, is aged cheese that is handmade by artisans. This automatically precludes most of the cheeses labeled “artisan” on supermarket shelves as these are most likely mass-produced in large cheese factories and are just marked artisan for marketing purposes. The best place to purchase artisan aged cheese is from specialty cheese stores where they curate cheeses or at the local farmers’ markets where local producers will display their handmade cheeses. Another plus for getting your aged artisan cheeses at the local farmers’ market is that most of the time, you can talk with the actual cheesemakers themselves to know more about the cheeses. Talking with the cheesemakers themselves adds to the experience and appeal of having artisan aged cheeses.
Artisan Aged Cheese Production & Farming in Texas
While not known as a top artisan aged cheese producer in America, Texas does have its share of well-known cheesemakers. On top of that, due to the abundance of milk producers, Texas also has a lot of cheesemakers that make cheeses that are made with locally-sourced milk.
Here are some of the artisan aged cheeses that can be found in Texas:
- Cheddar – Cheddar is semi-hard and pale-colored. There are three flavor “intensities” of cheddar, those being mild, sharp, and extra sharp. The sharper the cheddar taste, the longer the aging process. Cheddar cheese also comes in smoked varieties, with many people commenting that the smokiness complements the sharpness of the cheddar perfectly.
- Tomme – Tomme-Style cheese got their name from the French word “tomme” which means “wheel of cheese”. Tomme-style cheese was originally made as a farmstead treat as opposed to being sold in the market. The aging time for Tomme is usually shorter than other aged cheese varieties at around 4 months, as opposed to 6-10 months. This shorter aging time gives Tomme-Style cheese a creamier and more fragile texture than other aged cheeses.
- Gouda – We have an article here in the Promptuary that deals exclusively with Gouda cheese, for more information, you can check it out.
- Caerphilly – Caerphilly is a mild cheese that is usually made from cow’s milk. This cheese has a fat content of around 50%. This cheese can ripen very fast with the aging process being as low as 14 days. Caerphilly is also called “The Crumblies” due to the fact that, you guessed it, they crumble very easily.
Another plus to buying from local artisan cheesemakers is that you have the option of purchasing cheese that is made with raw and unpasteurized milk.
Pesticides, Chemicals, and Additives:
An issue that usually comes up when talking about commercially produced aged cheeses is contamination with antibiotics. Much like with meat, commercial milk production can be tainted with antibiotics due to the density of animals in production facilities. The antibiotics given to the cows can travel to the milk, which in turn can be passed on to the people eating the cheese, this can lead to antibiotic resistance. Not only that, some commercially produced aged cheeses are also treated with antibiotics to prevent the growth of certain mold.
Artisan Aged Cheeses are usually packed in their own rinds with just a simple wax paper wrap with cling film wrap around it. A dead giveaway that “artisan” aged cheeses are commercially produced is if they’re packed in vacuum-sealed bags and look too perfect.
Enjoying Artisan Aged Cheeses
Since most artisan aged cheeses are packed with the rind still intact, the first thing you should do is to peel or cut the rinds off first.
After cutting the rind off, don’t be afraid to sniff the cheese. This not only gives you a good indication of what the cheese’s flavor is, but it has been said that sniffing the cheese before eating it intensifies the taste of the cheese.
If you are eating different cheeses on a platter, eat them from increasing intensity, starting with the mildest cheese.
To store artisan aged cheeses, first, wrap it in plastic wrap or wax paper. Remember that the cheese needs to breathe. Store it in the warmest part of the fridge, preferably in the bottom of the vegetable crisper. As for the length of the storage, a good rule of thumb is that harder cheeses can be stored longer than softer cheeses.
Artisan Aged Cheese Pairings:
Since this is a pretty general post about aged cheeses, we won’t go into specific pairings as there is a wide variety of aged cheeses out there. Here are some general tips for pairings that you can apply if you ever have any artisan aged cheeses on hand.
- Wine and cheese from the same place go together. Since wine and cheese have been inseparable since time immemorial, it is best to keep those traditions together. For example, if you have some Italian-style cheese, then some wine from Italy would pair perfectly with it.
- For Artisan Aged Cheese, a good rule of thumb is the order the cheese, the bolder the wine should be. The more aged the cheese is, the more fat content it has volume-wise as the moisture level goes down. The higher tannins in bolder wines help cut through the fattiness and the sharpness of the cheese.
- The sharper the cheese, the higher the alcohol content. No, we’re not making this up! We promise! For more intensely flavored cheeses, it is actually recommended to have a wine with a higher alcohol content as not to be overwhelmed by the flavor of the cheese.
- If you have some local nuts like pecans, they would go well with aged cheeses. Nuts, in general, bring out the sweetness in the cheeses, and you’ll want that sweetness to be drawn out as much as possible.