January is Caves Month at Murray’s, and in order to understand our caves and the cheeses that come from them, you have to meet our Cavemasters! From daily cheese care (known as affinage), to coming up with new cheeses and much more, the Cavemasters are the reason Murray’s Caves are able to produce thousands of wheels of innovative, delicious cheeses each year.
First up, meet our Head Cavemaster, Peter “PJ” Jenkelunas. After years of Cheesemaking in the Hudson Valley, PJ moved to NYC and joined the Murray’s team. Four years later, he is our Head Cavemaster, is responsible for every aspect of our Caves program. Read on to learn his favorite cheese, his favorite cave, and more!
Where are you originally from?
How did you first get into cheese?
Like most people who pursue a career in cheese, I think it tastes pretty good. In addition to the obvious, I’ve been really interested in fermented foods ever since I started studying food science back in college. Harnessing the power of microbes to create unique flavors is inherently fascinating to me. For these reasons, I decided to work as a cheesemaker in the Hudson Valley immediately after graduation. I’ve been hooked ever since.
How did you start working in the Murray’s Caves?
I’ve known about Murray’s Cheese for quite some time. I knew that Murray’s bought a ton of the cheese that I made up in the Hudson Valley, and I knew they had a great reputation for affinage. When I moved down to NYC, I noticed that they had a job opening in their caves. It seemed like a great opportunity to learn more about affinage. It turned out that I was right, and I’m still learning more 4 years later.
What’s your favorite thing about working in the caves at Murray’s?
Experimenting with new cheese treatments is a lot of fun. We always have something new in the pipeline, and it’s exciting to see how our projects pan out.
What do you love about Murray’s in general?
We have an awesome selection of cheeses. It’s great to work for a company that puts such an emphasis on quality.
Which cave is your favorite? Why?
Our alpine cave is a very therapeutic place. A few hours of methodically washing Annelies will put your mind at ease.
What is your favorite Cavemaster Cheese? Can be one we’ve done in the past.
I’ll go with Stockinghall. We spent so much time developing this cheese, and I couldn’t be happier with the final result.
PJ is our Head Cheesemonger, but he’s only one part of our Caves team, meet the rest of the team: