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Focus on washed rind cheeses Sunday Brunch C4 28 Sept 2014

28 Sep

Washed Rind cheeses have been around since the Middle Ages and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with a distinctive character. Monks are closely associated with those cheeses and many more, their strict religious diet meant they had to abstain from eating any meat for long period of time, but they could eat the cheese, Maroilles one of our star cheeses today was created in the 10th Century by a monk in Maroilles, Northern France, around the same time some benedictine monks emigrated to Alsace and later created another famous washed rind cheese, Munster, further South in the Alps other Monks were busy cross breeding cows and clearing forests to create pastures in the Abondance valley.

As a matter of fact we have to thank them for having maintained and developed such knowledge during the Dark Ages.

The process of washing applies mostly to soft and semi soft cheeses, it indeed helps those to mature while keeping them soft and supple, and contributes in developing their great flavour.

Washed Rind cheeses are bathed or scrubbed with pure brine or one to which may be added ferments, local wine, local brandy, local beer, local cider,… .the process will be repeated during days or weeks in some cases in selected hydrometrie and temperature conditions that will favour those organisms that are ripening your cheese.This growth on the surface is mainly made of Brevibacterium linens, we French call it “ferment du rouge”, red ferment. Brevy, the nickname for our new friend, colonizes the surface of the cheese with the helping hand of the cheese affineur, the rind’s surface becomes sticky and orange/red releasing a characteristic penetrating locker smell.

The rind is edible, though if your cheese has just reached maturation, it may be overpowering. Indeed ammonia, a by product of maturation makes itself feel stronger as the cheese ripens, it provides a kick to some cheese lovers, an acquired taste to others, feel free to eat it or cut it off if you don’t like the acidity it provides. Bear in mind that ammonia is volatile so let the cheese breathe and it will pack less of kick. The heart of the cheese and the rind can be enjoyed together or separately.

Washing may be performed in the sanctuary of your house, indeed if you purchase a cheese which rind has been washed, it is likely it has not received a wash for some time because the maker will stop after a certain number of days, the cheese will be wrapped or boxed, so the cheese’s rind is likely to dry, a white growth may take over during the retail life of the cheese,  therefore you may want to give your cheese a kickstart when you arrive home by giving it a wash.

All cheeses chosen today are unpasteurized!

Following is the message David Jowett sent me about the making of St Oswald our first cheese, such a great insight that there is no need for me to present it on his behalf.


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Gorsehill abbey farm is a small, organic dairy farm, comprised of ridge-and-furrow pastures formed during the Middle Ages and ancient perry pear orchards. The grazing is traditional, slow growing grass verities, and clover based. Milking 60-70 Montbélairde cows using a robotic milking machine which analysis milk from each quarter of the udder of each cow (for cell counts, fat:protein etc). St Oswald is raw milk, traditional rennet, and using mesophilic and thermophilis starter cultures. I heat the milk to 35deg C, and add the starter and rennet. Cut 40 minutes later, to the size of hazelnuts, and gently stir the curd in the whey until the correct pH is archived and the texture feels right. Mould then cheese, and flip immediately, followed by two more flips that day. Following day, flip and salt. Once the cheese has taken the salt, I wrap about half of the batch in spruce cambium bands, as for the Vacherin. The spruce is cut from forests in the Franché-Comte. I boil them in acidified water, cool them, and inoculate with geotrichum yeast (as you suggested I think!). Washing the cheese starts a few days later, using brine with ripening cultures. Wash every other day for 4 weeks. Sometimes, yeasts and moulds bloom over the cheese once wrapped (similar to Reblochon affinage) – predominantly geotrichum and Fusarium. Rich and buttery texture, partly due to good butterfat content of the milk, savoury flavours. If batch 140618, meaty flavours, if 140731 batch, more lactic flavours but super buttery texture. Some gas production flora in the starter blend giving a few holes in the paste. Ripening conditions, 90% RH and 12deg C for washing period, 6-8deg C once wrapped. 

Any other information you want, do ask 🙂 D

A few important links on ST OSWALD.

You may find a full list of suppliers on this link from Gorsehill abbey farm.

Special thanks to Paxton and Whitfield to make the cheese available for us.

David has since moved on to making his own cheese with King Stone dairy,

Collegamento permanente dell'immagine integrata

Rollright cheeses at 7 days old. After their 1st rind wash. Wild yeasts established well on surface. Can you see a faint orange hue?

This is a must try, you will find David Jowett’s Rollright @KingStoneDairy .



It was invented in the 10th century in the Abbey of Maroilles, it quickly grew to fame, and was noted as the preferred cheese of several French kings. October 1st is still celebrated as Maroilles Day in the region.

Maroilles is a semi-soft washed rind cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in Thiérache, north of France. It follows a similar recipe as the one previously seen, only a few details differ, the milk is heated to 26 to 30 celcius, a longer acidification, the first ten days the young salted square curds are left to rest in a ventilated area where they begin to develop a light blue fuzzy surface. This brief stage is crucial as it determines the future taste of the product, the blue mould actually absorbs some of the acidity in the young curd,the cheeses are then moved to an aging cellar and washed and brushed for several weeks to encourage Brevibacterium linens bacteria which will turn the rind sticky and smelly with an unmistakable orange red hue. The taste is soft and creamy, with a slight sweetness and lingering milky flavour when young. When fully ripe, it is meaty, tastes somewhat of bacon, it lingers and lingers and lingers…mind the rind!

I have chosen this Maroilles today because it is supplied by Mons affineurs, an enterprise which is doing a huge amount of work to protect raw milk cheese making.

You may purchase this very product from or their stockists in the UK.

BIS from Kappacasein in Bermondsey London.

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Made from unpasteurised  organic cow’s milk from Commonworks organic dairy in Kent.

I took part in a similar production a couple of years ago with Bill, so i ll try roughly to explain its making.

On production day, first thing drive to the farm 4am in order to pick the fresh raw milk.  As we arrive, the cows start to make their way to the milking shed, the farmer wipes the cow teats with a dry cloth, nothing more than a dry cloth, it is organic milk that is produced in here!

While the cows line up, Bill opens the milk jugs ready for filling, pour in each of them a starter, and by when he is done the first cows are already being milked, Bill starts with the first jug till he has filled 10 jugs what is required for this day’s production. The whole filling of the jugs lasted barely 45 minutes, time to drive to South London now.

We change shoes when we arrive in the  warehouse, a good hand washing and now the milk is poured in the vat in the cheese making room through a vent. When all the milk has been transferred into the vat, the vent is closed. Another hand wash, change of protective clothing, another change of shoes, a hat and now we can enter the cheese making room. Bill checks on the ph of our milk and the temp, gently warms up the milk to the desired temp and he inoculates the milk with rennet, stir  in order to distribute evenly the coagulating enzyme in the vat, the milk will remain undisturbed for up to an hour, the curd is cut and brassed in order to evacuate whey, the vat is gently warmed up again to achieve this time a slightly higher temp which will help to expel more whey and lactic acid from the curd, the curd is checked again for ph, if it has the right feel, it may now be transferred to the mould, they will be applied a gentle pressure by the use of weight, they may be flipped once before being salted for the first time. The cheese will be washed with a ripening solution on a daily basis for a few weeks until it has reached the time when it is ready for sale.

For the purpose of item, i wash Bis with a cider from my friends at New Forest cider ( ). I chose the sweet cider and washed the cheese once a day for three days, the home washed cheese recovered drastically, it took away a fair amount of sharpness from the rind, the rind was a bit dry when i purchased it, the cheese had indeed dried up a bit, none of the makers making but bad storage before the show, the wash kind of helped the flora to spring back to life, it smells much deeper than the piece that had not been washed for days. The taste is meaty, buttery with good sharpness.

Bill and Jennifer Kast at Kappacasein have been quite successful at making a London Reblochon. Equally as successful as with other creations of the dairy, Kappacasein has indeed received this year the James Aldridge award for best unpasteurised British cheese 2014 for Bermondsey Hard pressed.

Successful yet short-lived, Bis is no longer made by Kappacasein , Jennifer Kast who created the cheese has now gone on to co-found @MilkJamLondon which is working to foster understanding of English territorial cheese & milk. The cheese is no longer produced as far as i know, that was a short successful life-span.

Kappacasein and Bill are going strong, discreetly  I must say since Kappacasein is the longest standing London cheese maker. Their ricotta is a must, it is so fluffy that I can picture Bill gently ladling it in the mould. Did i mention their butter? You gotta keep up with those guys!



Our cheese is produced between the 15 August and 31 March from unpasteurised cow’s milk in Franche Comté, it is usually made by Comté makers, it is highly seasonal, its making coincides with the cow’s change of diet as they are coming down from the high pasture, the cow will be dry fed over the winter with hay.  The milk is better suited then to making a lactic cheese which is why Vacherin is made.

Our Vacherin is made from unpasteurised cow’s milk by the Fromagerie Arnaud, a well recognised multi awarded maker, our Vacherin has actually received a Silver medal at the Concours Agricol 2014 in Paris, quite a distinction.

The making differs from our previous products, it is a lactic cheese meaning the curds are let to acidify much longer than seen previously. Rennet will have been added but in a lower quantity. When the curding is over, the curds ae moulded under weights, pretty much like the Bis seen just before. The cheese will be washed on a daily basis with a ripening solution for 21 days before being readied for export in that typical plastic wrap you already know. The maker has a trick up his sleeve though the brine bath used to wash the Vacherin remains unchanged till the end of the season therefore becoming a brew of microorganisms which will make the cheese better and better as the season passes. After 21 days, the cheeses are actually slightly wider than the box pictured, the maker will carefully bind the cheese with the same cambium used for St Oswald! The binding creates a ripple on its surface and reduces the diameter of the cheese, allowing its introduction in its traditional epicea box. The cheese will keep maturing naturally in this box specially designed for this purpose, as it ages the aromas of pine from the cambium used for the binding become ever more present.

Fromagerie Arnaud are one of 11 producers of Vacherin du Haut Doubs.

This cheese was supplied by

The aim of this exercise was to give you a few more tools to understand washed rind cheeses, there are many varieties available in your cheese monger.

Washing the cheese at home?

Many a washed rind cheese will have been readied for sale at an early stage of maturation. They may not have been washed for a couple of weeks, a thin white growth ( geotrichum most often ) may appear, Vacherin, Époisses, are good examples, indeed the wooden box holding these is wrapped in a breathable plastic that maintains a good RH but does not allow for washing, i always advise my customers to take the plastic off as soon as they are back home, to wash their hands thoroughly and then to gently wash the cheese with a bit of white wine, beer, cider, the choice is determined by the cheese purchased, the style of alcohol it was washed with, the region of origin, Stinking Bishop for instance is a washed rind pasteurised cow’s milk cheese from Gloucestershire washed in a cider perry made from the Stinking Bishop pears, when it comes to brandy, it is advisable to dilute it with water or it will be too harsh.

Good hunting and home washing!


Almnäs Tegel

7 May

Made in Almnäs Bruk, in between Gothenburg and Stockholm.


“The Almnäs Tegel is made out of the milk from our own herd consisting mainly of Holstein cows but also some of the Swedish red breeds and a lovely spotted one from the north.” said Thomas Nolberger, assistant to Elizabeth Andersson, the cheese maker.

The Tegel is made out of a mix of evening milk and morning milk. The evening milk is chilled only to 15 C° and with the morning milk unchilled on top, the milk arrives at the dairy at a temperature of about 23 – 25 C°. This means that the mesophilic bacteria has ample time to cut the casein into aminoacids and then on to amines to set free the aromas.

The curd is cut very fine to the size of a green pea. Afterwards the temperature is slowly raised to 51C° while slowly stirring. Then the curd is filled into the moulds, the plastic mould with the childrens footprints put on top and into the presses.

The cheese remains under very high pressure until the next morning after which it is put in the brine pool for 48 hours.

It is then washed in brine for 10 consecutive days. We normally start with the older ones to “contaminate” the young cheese with their bacterial flora. Later on the washing is reduced to 3 times a week, then 2 times a week, then once a week and then finally, oh glorious day, when needed. When the Tegel leaves Almnäs at age 24 months it has been turned and washed hundreds of times.

The Tegel is inspired by the production of bricks that started in 1750 when the manor was built and continued on up until 1976. In the beginning the bricks were made by manually putting clay into wooden moulds and then put out in the yard to dry before burning them in the furnace. The children, playing out in the yard, would run over them and their footprints were caught in the clay. This we can still be seen in the attic where there is a brick floor with many trapped footprints.Image

Our cheese is hard cooked pressed, its making is very similar to a grana, meaning grain, in relation with its grainy texture. Matured for 24 months so it has lost a lot of its humidity which makes for a rather dense cheese, somewhat like parmigiano reggiano but sweeter!

How would i enjoy it? Crumbed, a few slices of saucisson, and a glass of sauternes