The Murray’s Cheese Caves have been home to countless experiments, award-winning cheeses, and plenty of brand new flavors, including the latest Labs collaboration, a smoked version of Four Fat Fowl’s famously creamy St. Stephen. But how exactly do these inventive cheeses come to fruition? We’re taking an inside look at the creation of Smoked Stephen and our Caves Team’s process behind the scenes.
Some of our Caves cheeses, like Cavemaster Original ACS Best of Show winner Stockinghall, are the result of careful planning, collaboration, and the creation of original recipes that help usher a new cheese into the world. Others from our Cavemaster Labs program, like Smoked Stephen, come from the creative minds of our Caves Team, and their curiosity about flavor combinations, innovative treatment, and just having fun with cheesemaking.
This new bloomy beauty was born from the simple concept of smoked cheese, and how to go about creating one in our Caves. “PJ [Cavemaster Peter Jenkelunas] tracked down a small cold-smoking gun, and we started experimenting – from dense base cheeses like Cornelia to tangy goat chevres. The St. Stephen really took to the smoke and became the crowd favorite in the office,” says Cavemaster Josh Windsor.
The experiment starts with a green or unaged wheel of St. Stephen from Four Fat Fowl–a traditionally buttery triple creme- style bloomy cheese with sweet, yeasty notes. The Caves team was able to create a DIY smoking chamber by encasing a rack stacked with wheels of cheese in plastic. The chamber is then filled with hickory smoke using a small smoking gun.
“This process is called cold smoking – where the heat source used to generate the smoke is not used to heat the food. This is done a few times to really saturate the chamber with smoke,” says Josh. The smoked cheeses are then left to rest, and after the plastic is removed, they’re aged and treated like any other bloomy rind cheese, with regular flipping.
“Visually, this cheese is quite different from St. Stephen,” says Cavemaster Josh. “Smoking the cheese inhibits microbial growth, so the white fluffy Penicillium mold takes a bit longer to grow, and the final cheese is dotted with several blue and green blooms.”
The new flavor? Also a departure from the original saint. Our Smoked Stephen has a dense, velvety paste that’s packed with notes of barbecue smoke and bacon, a hint of roasted hazelnuts, and just a touch of sweet buttermilk.
Love this latest Caves creation? Check out some of our other delicious experiments right here.