How Does Your Cheese Melt?

We love the ooey-gooey – that melty delight that is fondue, grilled cheese, and everything in-between. But in your own cheesy experimentation you’ve probably noticed how some cheeses just aren’t as up to turning melty as others. It doesn’t mean we love them any less (I mean, who doesn’t love that crispy crust of Parmesan on a Chicken Parm?) but we know they’re just different. Have you ever wondered why? Don’t worry, we’re here to break it down for you, Cheesers.

First things first, it’s all about the fat! The fat and water ration in cheese determines how it is going to melt. So something that is higher in moisture is usually going to be a better melter than a drier alternative. That’s because the protein structure (which is what keeps the water and fat separated) is looser in high moisture cheeses, and very rigid in dry ones. 

So when heat is applied to most cheeses, the fat globules change from solid to liquid, which is when it starts getting that ooey gooey consistency. The protein structure loosens its grip under the heat, and the cheese begins to flow like a thick liquid rather than a solid – think of dripping, delightful fondue, and you’ll have the right idea in your head!

This is why age isn’t just a number when it comes to melting cheese – the age actually means a lot! Freshly made cheeses don’t have that maturity level yet, with their proteins tightly wound up. As they gain a little bit more time, the proteins loosen up, and create a more open matrix (think of it as a net that holds all the water and fat). That matrix is flexible, which is why they melt smoothly and don’t break. But if it ages too much, those proteins tighten up into tough clumps – that’s where that crispy cheese comes in.

So the best melters are a combo of age and moisture – Emmentaler, Gruyere, Comte, they are all well aged, with a flexible protein net. Their high moisture helps separate the proteins without breaking them completely, which allows them to flow into stringy, ooey-gooey meltiness. It totally makes your mouth water just thinking about it, right? Science is so much funner when it’s delicious.

You can hit up some of our favorite melters and get started on your own grilled cheese, fondue, and other cheesy experiments! 

Murray’s is Making Cheese! Introducing Ezra

Murray’s has always stood by our creed: We Know Cheese. We’ve embraced it – as purveyors of the world’s best cheeses, guardians of Gruyere, champions of Cheddar, defenders of Delice de Bourgogne, we’ve brought you only the best. But while we’ve cultivated other people’s cheeses, aged some of the greats in our Caves, Murray’s hasn’t developed a cheese from scratch – until today!

Meet Ezra; a Murray’s exclusive clothbound cheddar born and bred here in New York. After almost two years of R&D, Ezra is finally emerging from within our caves to make its first appearance in our shops. But let’s walk you through how Ezra came to be!

Our Cavemaster PJ Jenkelunas and Sr VP Steve Millard got into a discussion around the spotty availability of a monger favorite Gabietou, and the idea of recreating this French washed-rind cheese was born.

Matt Ranieri, who was consulting with Old Chatham Sheepherding Co.,and Dave Galton (who co-owns Old Chatham with his wife Sally) agreed to help Murray’s in their R&D of Gabietou and to help provide the milk. The cheese would be made at the dairy incubator at New York’s Cornell University. Over a long weekend, the Murray’s team made its way up to Cornell to start making cheese. The only problem? Gabietou (version 1.0, as our Cavemaster still wants to make one eventually) didn’t turn out so great. But, it gave birth to a new idea.

During a re-examination of what the cheese would be, Steve expressed the desire to make a truckle sized cheddar – inspired by England’s Lincolnshire Poacher instead of the sweet New York cheddars that existed. In July of 2015, they tried again, heading back up to Cornell and making their very first batch of cheddar. It took some experimentation, and plenty of time, but finally, this lemony, bright cheddar tastes of sour cream and baked potato – and it’s perfect.

Our cheese was dubbed Ezra – the first name of the founder of Cornell, the birthplace of Murray’s first cheddar. But what was behind the magic of making this fine little cheddar? We sat down with PJ and Steve to learn a bit more about the inspiration behind Murray’s first cheese.

  • After experimenting with the recipe, what was the goal for this cheese? Was there a certain flavor profile you were aiming for?

“At Murray’s we sell cheese really well, we do affinage really well, we merchandise cheese exceptionally and our training program is second to none but we never made cheese.  My desire was to have a cheese that we made. We experimented with Holstein versus Jersey milk and settled on Holstein as our milk of choice.  We have 6 or so batches of Jersey cheddar (still really great) and then will be back to 100% Holstein.” – Steve

“The product development process involved a lot of variables.  Steve mentioned that we were going back and forth between Holstein and Jersey milk.  We also tried many different culture combinations.  During the aging process, we sampled each test batch very regularly to see which combination of cultures fit our desired profile.  Since clothbound cheddar takes so long to age and develop its flavor, this process took a very long time.” – PJ

  • What makes this cheese unique? What does it have that our customers will find appealing?

“I think this cheese is incredible.  I am admittedly biased but think the combination of many factors is leading this cheese to fit into our set very nicely.  American cheddar tends to run down a sweet/sulfurous path.  This cheese very much decidedly goes in a different direction toward a wonderfully bright and acidic path with notes of lemon curd and a slight hint of sweet caramel.  Our natural rind cave has proven to be a wonderful component of this cheese and this cheese sings the notes of the microflora of this cave beautifully.” – Steve

” All the elements of this cheese hit upon a New York theme… we developed it at Cornell, we use New York state milk, we get our lard from the Meat Hook (and they use New York pigs), and obviously we age it in NYC.” – PJ

  • With this successful project completed, what can we expect to come out of Murray’s caves in the future?

“We are working on recreating Barden Blue and are very close to having a final recipe.  This will be a raw milk, natural rind blue made by Consider Bardwell Farm and aged in our caves in Long Island City.  The other big project we are working on is an ashed, domestic Camembert made by Jasper Hill and finished in our caves.

Annelies started as a small R&D project with 2 wheels aging for 12 months in our caves and now we have 360 wheels of this incredible cheese aging in our alpine cave. We strive to have several small R&D projects going, from each one we learn a tremendous amount about cheese making, affinage and what we like. ” – Steve

Featuring Our French Faves for Cheese Week!

We wouldn’t be much of a cheese shop if we didn’t have an undying love for French cheeses. This week is Cheese Week, so of course we turned to our favorite cheeses to highlight during the festivities. The French have given us so much when it comes to cheese – and it’s not just the humble Brie. France has given us cheeses that run the gamut – creamy Camemberts, herbal chevres, nutty sheep’s milks, and minerally blues. We”d love to tell you about our favorite Frenchies, just in time to inspire your own Cheese Week celebrations!

Murray’s Camembert

We know your first thought when we talk about French cheese is Brie – but instead, why not try a little wheel of Camembert? Historically inspired by the Brie recipe (it was said to be passed down by a priest who had come from the province of Brie, but the recipe was corrupted in the telling), Camembert is creamier, more mushroomy, and has an earthiness that really tastes as though you’re enjoying it in the fields of France.

Murray’s Delice

If you’re looking for creamy, buttery sweet cheese, look no further than the land of Burgundy. Not only do they have delectable wine, but their cheese cannot be beat – Delice de Bourgogne is full of fresh milk flavors, with hints of sweet cream and clean hay. You can start your day with Delice paired with apricots and drizzled with honey as a tasty breakfast – or dessert if you add a glass of champagne on the side.

Valencay

The Loire Valley has created oh so many chevre cheeses, but Valencay stands out. Stories say that it was originally shaped like a pyramid, but when Napoleon returned from his military failings in Egypt, he demanded the pointed tops be removed, even going so far as to slice them off himself with his sword. While we’re not sure how true that is, the stunted pyramid shape remains, and the minerally, piquant goat’s milk is still one of our faves.

Ossau Iraty

If you’re looking for ancient traditions, you’ve found it. It’s said that Ossau Iraty is one of the first cheeses ever produced, and it’s only gotten better with age. Warm, buttery sheep’s milk curds are heated and pressed – think rich, toasty wheat aromas, and nutty, grassy-sweet flavors that make it that sort of cheese that stands up against anything – bold reds, toasty brown ales, whatever you’d like to pair it with.

Fourme d’Ambert

A blue developed so early on that the Druids and Gauls were said to have worked together to create it (read: a veryyyyy long time ago). It’s even said to go back to the Roman occupation of France nearly 1,000 years ago! They obviously perfected the recipe over the years, because we love nothing more than the earthy, mushroomy cheese with hints of sweetness and an amazing velvety texture. Even the staunchest blue hater will fall in love with this Frenchie.

To celebrate Cheese Week, we’ve got some great discounts on some of our French Faves! Check it out! 

Notes from our Jasper Hill Cheese Camp Correspondent

Last week, we sent some of our mongers on a journey into chilly Greensboro, Vermont to attend Cheese Camp at Jasper Hill Farm. This long weekend intensive is an amazing opportunity for mongers to see the cheese making and aging process first hand from the knowledgeable staff at one of America’s most dynamic and successful cheese operations. Ian Pearson, Head Monger at Murray’s Cheese Bar, was part of the Murray’s group who attended Cheese Camp. He snapped some photos throughout the weekend and wrote about the experience.

Snowy and chilled on the outside, but filled with warming, delicious cheese on the inside. This is how I spent most of Cheese Camp at Jasper Hill Farm. There were a dozen of us, cheesemongers from all over, braving Vermont’s biggest snowstorm in years to learn what we could from this cutting-edge American creamery. The experience was admittedly nerdy, but the kind of nerdiness you should expect from your cheesemonger— a voracious appetite for not only the crème de la crème of cultured curd, but also the knowledge of how it’s made.

Needless to say, like the protein clumping in a cheese’s make, instant bonds were formed. Over morning cups of coffee and evening beers, as we shoveled each other’s cars out, before shuffling into Jasper Hill’s classroom, where conversations about cheese flowed over one another.  They seemed to only ever abide when one of our instructors spoke.

Most mornings, Zoe Brickley, Jasper Hill’s Education Wizard (title mine), loaded us with awe-inspiring presentations— spanning everywhere from milk theory and herd management to successful pairing, with large doses of microbiology and good practices thrown in for measure. She readily answered our most obtuse questions: like how the enzymatic make-up of various types of rennet could potentially alter flavor (quite a bit) or where a specific species’ identifiable flavor comes from (it’s in the fat). I told you this got nerdy.

For the cheesemaking itself, we ambled on down to the Vermont Food Venture Center, where Matt Spiegler and his crew were whipping up a beautiful batch of Harbison. Unfortunately, cameras weren’t allowed here or in the caves for safety reasons, but believe you me, as vats of fresh-cut curd were poured into their molds and the whey expelled, there wasn’t a mouth in the room that wasn’t salivating. Matt thankfully recognized this and handed out milky-sweet bits for us to taste.

The caves, seven of them jutting into the namesake hill from the creamery’s central axis, are a place of cheese worship. Affineur Adam Smith ushered us through each one, where rows of Moses Sleeper are doted on and countless wheels of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar age into the best versions of themselves, as music is piped in from mobile soundsystems to encourage happy ripening.  This is where I belong, I thought to myself, and I quietly cried a little with joy.

On our final day, after waving goodbye to the cows and whispering promises to one-day return, we made our way to Vermont Creamery. There, Sam Hooper, son of co-founder Allison, led us through the sprawling facilities that continue to grow since their inception in 1984, remaining true to the mission of providing gorgeous dairy products and supporting local family farms. We filled up on cultured buttered and chevre to sustain us through the journey home, with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the cheese and makers that continue to inspire us everyday.

To shop through our selection of Jasper Hill cheeses follow this link, and find all our favorite Vermont Creamery treats here! Also, stop by Murray’s Cheese Bar in the West Village sometime to experience Ian’s cheese plate mastery.

 

Science Has Decided: Wine & Cheese are Meant to Be

Once again, science has proven something we already know: cheese makes wine taste better! We’ve been pushing wine and cheese pairings for basically forever, but now we’ve got some cold hard facts about how and why wine and cheese were meant to be. 

 

Thanks to the Journal of Food Science, we learned about a study where locals from the wine-loving town of Dijon, France snacked on cheese and wine over five days, then gave some feedback about what they experienced and tasted. The wine contenders: Pancherenc, Sancerre, Bourgogne, and Madiran. The cheeses: Epoisses, Comte, Roquefort, and Crottin de Chavignol. Each of the wines were tasted with and without cheese, and low and behold – no one disliked any of the wines paired with the cheeses. Actually, the participants reported that the wine tasted even BETTER when it was being munched on with some cheese.

The cheese increased the aroma of the wine for the better, and decreased the duration of the acidity of the red wines – basically, the wine smelled better and tasted less bitter. The cheese had no negative impact on the wines, which should make all of you cheeselovers happy. Science says pair your wine with any cheese you like, and who are we to argue? While we love perfecting wine and cheese pairings, you can’t go wrong with no matter what wine or cheese you pick.

Want more info on how to pair wine and cheese together? Take our Wine & Cheese 101 class!