What happens in our Murray’s Caves in Long Island City is true cheese magic. Affinage, or the cheese aging process, is a meticulous science that often produces delicious and surprising results, and the members of our Caves Team are engineers in creating brand new cheeses and remixes of old favorites. Our line of Cave Aged releases takes traditional cheeses from makers you know and love, and ages them in our state-of-the-art affinage system to bring out new flavors and textures without any additives, flavoring, or special experimentation.
A few years back, Walter Räss, the cheesemaker behind the legendary Challerhocker, came and visited our caves. With him he brought some wheels of cheese. We held onto it in the caves, aging it as an experiment. It turned out so well that it became one of our Cavemaster Reserve products: Annelies, named after Walter’s wife. Walter is an alpine cheesemaker, Annelies is an alpine cheese. And it’s quite an excellent one at that, with flavors of roasted hazelnuts, vibrant alpine grasses, lush butterscotch, and bittersweet cocoa. Typically we age it from 9-12 months.
But what would’ve happened if we just let Walter’s wheels continue to age in our caves a little longer? The result, the new Cave Aged Limited 18 Month Annelies, an extra aged version of our crowd pleaser Annelies. We sat down with Head Cavemaster PJ to get the inside scoop on how the aging process turned this classic into a new cheese release.
Annelies is already so delicious! Why age it longer?
Cheese is constantly evolving as it ages. The flavor will slowly change and intensify over time. If aged in the right conditions with appropriate care, certain cheeses could age for years without losing quality. When that happens, the age at which we sell a cheese becomes a question about preference and flavor profile. When Annelies ages for 18 months, it is a different cheese but still excellent in its own way.
How do you decide which wheels are aged to 18 months rather than the typical 9-12 months?
We wanted to make sure that we selected wheels that were in good shape for extra aging. This means rinds that were intact and the absence of any flavor defects. The flavor in the cheese will amplify as it ages longer, so it is important to select cheeses that taste great already.
What is the affinage process on Annelies? Tell us about it!
The affinage process for Annelies is straightforward. We store the cheese on wood boards in our alpine cave, where the conditions are calibrated for this style of cheese. Over the course of the aging, we flip and wash each cheese with water weekly. This means the 18-month Annelies is washed by hand 78 times!
What does 18 Month Annelies taste like? How is it different?
Our 18 month Annelies is a very flavorful cheese. The extra aging brings out plenty of onion and nutty notes. It becomes a more savory and less sweet version of our regular Annelies with the extra aging.
How do you like to enjoy Annelies 18 month?
This cheese has the complexity necessary to stand on its own and would make a great addition to any cheese plate. I also wouldn’t hesitate to incorporate it into a fondue.