Make no mistake, I must have a gift. My cheese disasters seem to turn into fantastic creations!
Quite a while back in September 2011, I made two wheels of Farmhouse Cheddar with Peppercorns. Kim and I opened one, shared half with friends and I wrapped the other half in cling wrap and put it into my big cheese box in the normal fridge at 4°C. I sold the other wheel to one of Kim’s friends, who loved it.
To my surprise, when I opened the cheese box on Sunday, 5th Feb, the half was still in there. It was now over 6 months old, and still in the plastic wrap. However something wonderful happened. Somewhere along the line, this cheese had become inoculated with penicillium roqueforti, and had grown blue mould. It had turned into a Farmhouse Pepper Blue!
I believe that I did have some Stilton open in the same cheese box, so it must have passed the mould on. I was a bit dubious at first, but had a smell, and it did not smell off, just blue. So here is the verdict:
Texture: Now I wasn’t sure how this cheese would taste, because when it was a Farmhouse cheddar it was sharp and very crumbly. I didn’t know how far the mould had penetrated the cheese as I had not pieced any holes in it as I would when making a blue or Stilton. The crumbliness had gone, which had developed into a rich creamy texture that was easy to cut.
Development: Once I cut it in half, there was indeed some marbling in the top half. As the Farmhouse cheddar had been so crumbly, there were air gaps and cracks in the top when I first put it into the fridge after de-waxing. These gaps had helped the blue mould seep deep into the cheese, enhancing the flavour.
Taste: So then I had a taste. OMG, it blew my mind. This was a wonderful cheese. The cheese was no longer sharp, but had a smooth creaminess to it, with a mild blue taste. Then the pepper hits your palette to add to the complexity.
I have never tasted anything quite like it. I am so pleased with this serendipitous discovery. I wonder if I can make it again? I might make it exactly the same, but spray it with some blue mould after two months normal maturation in the cheese fridge, wrap it up and store it in the normal fridge at 4°C for another four months. I think I will pierce it a few times to help the mould develop inside just in case.
As I have said before, cheese making is more art than science. What a fluke!