Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cheese: Surface-Ripened Goat

Rachael recently got some amazing cheeses from Cypress Grove in Arcata, Humboldt County, California, which she shared with us. One, in particular, was amazing, the Cypress Grove Chevre Humboldt Fog, 
a pasteurized cultured goat milk cheese, which is surface ripened. Surface-ripened, means that the cheese ripens by the growth of molds (Camembert or Brie) or bacteria (Pont l'Eveque or Munster) on the surface of the cheese. Humboldt Fog begins as a creamy goat cheese. After about 10 to 14 days it begins to ripen and change in texture and appearance. This is because the exterior of the cheese has been exposed to a mold. The cheese immediately under the rind starts to darken and become more gooey. 
This is called proteolysis, the breaking down of proteins into simpler compounds. The more it ripens, the larger the gooey area becomes. The Cypress Grove website has a chart of the aging process. It shows the gooey area in a young cheese as about 1/4 inch thick. As it ripens, the gooey area increases to a 1/2 inch thick and as it matures, the gooey area gets up to 1 inch thick. The gooey area not only has a different texture, but it has a completely different taste than the rest of the cheese. It has a tangy "bleu" flavor, like bleu cheese. As it ripens, the rest of the cheese structure changes as well, just not as dramatically. The young cheese is firm and moist, like regular goat cheese, then as it ripens,  it dries a bit and gets more flaky. In the mature cheese, it is much drier and denser. I assume that with the aging, the intensity of the rest of the cheese increases as well. It has an edible "pillowy white bloomy rind." 
Adding to the complexity of the cheese is a ribbon of edible vegetable ash through the center, like that found in Morbier cheese, and under the exterior to give it a very distinctive appearance. The ash has no taste but creates some fun visible distinction. A wedge of the cheese looks like a layer cake. 
A bite into the cheese provides three distinct textures: the more firm rind, the gooey, bleuy layer, and the center which can be at various stages of firmness and moistness. It is very funky cheese. Very fun and a taste treat. 

The other surface-ripened goat cheese we had was Cypress Grove Chevre Truffle Tremor. 
The best I can tell, the Truffle Tremor is Humboldt Fog without the ash lines and with added black truffles. 
It appears that truffles provide more of an aroma than a taste, but despite the seemingly small difference between these two cheeses, I really liked the Humboldt Fog a lot more, although the difference may have been the stage of ripeness and the presentation of the Humboldt Fog (the ash lines do make it very distinctive). 
The Truffle Tremor seemed stronger, more bluey, more salty, to me. 

These cheeses are both amazing. The more I learn about cheese the more I am astounded at the differences in taste and texture that can be achieved through simple ingredients and differences in processing. 

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