Thursday, February 26, 2009

St. Nectaire

The other day I watched a documentary called "The Cheese Nun" about Sister Noella Marcellino. Sister Noella Marcellino is a Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut. She began making the Abbey’s cheese in 1977 using an ancient technique taught to her by a French woman. Pursuing a doctorate in Microbiology in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UConn in 2003, she traveled extensively through cheese-making regions in France collecting native strains of cheese-ripening fungi to access their biochemical and genetic diversity. She isolated hundreds of species of the fungi Geotrichum candidum, one of the keys to the uniqueness of every cheese. She collected samples of the microflora from the milk, cheeses and caves. Back in the lab she studied the samples and discovered that each cave has its distinct microflora. Even caves a few miles apart might be inhabited by different strains of the fungi. This is one reason why cheeses are so distinct to their locality.

After watching the documentary, I went to look for some of the sister's publications. I found two and have read one so far. Published in the November 1992 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology I found "Scanning Electron and Light Microscopic Study of Microbial Succession on Bethlehem St. Nectaire Cheese". A very interesting article about the developmental stages of the microorganisms on this particular cheese. She describes the biochemical activity of the texture and flavor developing microbial populations on this mold ripened cheese.

As said, all caves have a distinct microflora living in them which are influential to the development of the cheese. After reading this paper I tried to do a little research on the microbial population in my cave by studying the rind of the St. Nectaire I made a while ago. Of course I don't have a microscope, nor can I determine which fungus or mold is what. But after a close look at the rind, I can conclude that my cave does not have a very diverse population. I think I can recognize a strain of G. candidum (the white mold in the pictures) and a strain of Mucor (the grey mold in the pictures). This is nothing like the ten to twelve microorganisms mentioned in the scientific paper by Sister Noelle. As I had always suspected, this cave is rather sterile. It is a poured concrete structure under the Brooklyn sidewalk. It does not compare to the cave upstate, which I use in the summer when it gets to hot in the city. The pictures of the rind of those cheeses will attest to that. The rinds are colorful, evidence of a very diverse and abundantly present population of microorganisms.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


A tomme, made on September 9-2008 form raw Holstein milk. Slightly acidic, it tastes a bit like a cheddar which is not my favorite cheese. It does has a nice clean flavor though.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


As expected the rind broke and the cheeses started leaking. I had to put them in containers. They now look like St. Marcelin. Washing will be difficult but I guess I can just dab the cheeses with wine.


I have washed the cheeses with white wine for a few times and they are starting to smell rather pungent. The rind is very fragile and I am worried about the strength of it. I can feel the inside of the cheeses getting liquid and if the rind breaks it might just run out.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Washed rind cheeses

The washed rind cheeses are starting to turn nicely orange and are developing their typical smell.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Last month I made some blue cheeses. These are simple cheeses, nothing fancy. I decided to make some blue cheeses because I had an empty refrigerator. I don't want to mingle these cheeses with the other types. Before you know it, everything is blue.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


After washing the cheeses every other day for a few weeks, the rind is establishing well. The higher temperature in the cave thanks to the rise of the temperature outside has helped the growth of the bacteria. Soon I will switch from washing with brine to washing with wine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Washed rind cheeses

Apart from the lager wheel on the left which is an Alpine, some tommes which I have been washing to develop a smear rind. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

St. Paulin

On January 9 I made a St. Paulin, also known as Port du Salut, after a recipe from Kosikowski's book "Cheese and Fermented Milk Foods" Volume II Procedure and Analysis. Here is the result three weeks later. The cheese has quite an open structure because I did not press it. I have been washing the cheese regularly, first with brine with Brevibacterium linens added to it and later with brine without the bacteria. The smear is developing but as with the Epoisse cheeses, it has been slow going. The temperature in the cave has been below ideal for optimum growth. But with spring coming and rising temperatures, the atmosphere in the cave will change for the better soon.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

St. Nectaire

Here is an update on the St. Nectaire I made on January 7. 

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Here are some recent pictures of the cheeses. Currently almost three weeks old with some orange showing from the Brevibacterium Linens. The growth of the bacteria is slow because both the aging refrigerator and the cheese cave are a little below the ideal temperature. 

Friday, February 6, 2009


Here is my first attempt from a few weeks ago to make an Epoisses style cheese. I used five gallon of raw jersey cow milk and let it coagulate over 36 hours at about 70 F. I let it drain for another 36 hours and after unhooping I salted the cheeses lightly and sprayed them with Brevibacterium linens. Next, I then put them under the fan to dry for about 6 hours.
Since then, I washed them every other day with brine and by now the orange color of the B. Linens bacteria is starting to show