Affinage is the final stage of the cheesemaking process after:
This final step is a crucial one because it gives the cheese its color, rind, texture, aroma, and flavor through aging.
During this phase, the cheese undergoes transformation by microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, or molds) controlled by the affineur.
Did you know?
Affinage is a French term which means maturing cheeses by aging and/or ripening them.
A cheese is said to be ripe, or affiné, when it reaches optimal maturity during the aging process.
What is an Affineur?
An affineur is a cheese-aging specialist who overlooks the affinage process to make sure the cheese reaches its optimal maturity in a ventilated environment.
The affineur – who people called the sorcerous of cheese – must manage three key elements:
This job requires repetition, patience, and passion because regardless of the weather, an affineur pampers the cheese daily by rubbing, salting, washing, and turning them.
It is a very physical job that demands absolute precision.
The affineur also has to choose the right places in the caves d’affinage for optimum ripening.
Temperature, humidity, and ventilation inside the caves have to be regulated on a consistent basis to create the best conditions for perfect cheese ripening.
These are some of the crucial roles that an affineur performs:
- Tasting the cheese and checking its firmness. Observing its color and aspect.
- Assessing and adjusting the ambient humidity.
- In the case of Comté, the affineur uses a small hammer to tap the rind and ‘ring’ the wheels, like a bell. From the tones, he is able to determine whether the cheeses need further aging or if they are ready to be eaten.
Do All Cheeses Undergo Affinage?
Most cheeses undergo affinage, with the exception of fresh cheeses like fromages frais or fromages blancs and whey cheeses which are not ripened.
A fromage frais is literally a ‘fresh’ cheese, one whose curds have just separated from the whey and drained.
Why Do Cheeses Need to be Ripened?
So that cheeses can:
- Be preserved for longer periods of time
- Have their own unique aromas and flavors
- Develop a rind
Developing a rind is awesome because it turns bland, tasteless curds into a flavorful, fragrant, and beautifully textured cheese.
Each family of cheeses requires different attention.
Also read: Can I Eat the Rind on Cheese?
The Two Types of Ripening Procedure
This is the quickest method but it is less stable.
Enzymes are applied to the surface of the cheese, and gradually make their way to the interior.
This is how affineurs create bloomy rinds with their downy Brie-like white coats, or washed rinds, with their smooth glossy exteriors and beautiful yellow hues.
Surface affinage: Majority of natural-rind cheeses such as Comté, L’Etivaz, etc. For cheeses such as Camembert and Époisses, micoorganisms are occasionally added to aid the affinage process.
This is the more stable albeit slower methods.
Like aged wine, some cheeses can be matured for months or even years, before being consumed.
Interior affinage: Roquefort, Bleu de Gex, Irish Crozier Blue, Dutch Goudas, etc.
Where Do Cheeses Matured or Aged?
Cheeses are aged either at the farm or dairy where they were made, or the affineur takes care of them.
The cheesemonger who sells the cheese may also ripen cheeses in their own caves d’affinage or boutique.
The affinage process usually happen in a ventilated environment. These range from high-tech temperature-controlled chambers to famous cellars to natural caves in the rock.
The temperature-humidity combination, which is fundamental, varies according to the type of cheese (with the exception of fresh cheese and whey cheese, which are not ripened).
It is the affinage that lends each cheese its distinct characteristics.
How Long Does a Cheese Needs to Be Ripened?
The duration of cheese ripening differs between families of cheeses and products: some are ripened for only a few days (especially small cheeses), while others take much longer.
Ripening time is directly related to the properties of milk, the breed of the animal, the way its milk was produced, the cheesemaker’s techniques, and local attributes such as weather, the season, and even the condition of the building where the cheese was produced.
- The 4 Seasons of Cheese Production (CLIMATES)
- 4 Common Types of Animal’s Milk Used to Make Cheese
- The Amount of Milk Required to Make Cheese
- What is Rennet in Cheese?
During maturation, each type of cheese requires different temperatures and relative humidity in the caves d’affinage, or ripening rooms.
The Seasonal Impact on Affinage
Affinage is extremely dependant on seasonal changes – even caves d’affinage undergo climatic changes.
The affineur has to control the caves d’affinage’s own microclimate to keep it as stable as possible, closely controlling humidity and temperature.
Fortunately, most caves today are controlled by elaborate technology, evaporators, humidifiers, refrigeration, and heating.
Nevertheless, some still operate in a traditional way, such as the Roquefort region in France where the cheese is ripened in the fleurines of the natural rock formations.
Conclusion: Commonly Used Tools to Ripened Cheese
An affineur has a range of tools at his disposal for different types of cheeses. Below are the top 3 most-used:
Muslin (fabric made of silk, thread, or horsehair):
- PURE COTTON MUSLIN BURP CLOTHS – no parent can ever have too many muslin burp cloths as they can be used for so many things! An ideal size to pop into a handbag or changing bag and can be used all around the home as they come in super handy when feeding, changing or even cleaning baby
- MULTI-PURPOSE ESSENTIAL FOR BABIES – our muslin cloths are so versatile and can be used in a multitude of ways. Perfect for protecting your clothing when burping little ones, wiping up sticky messes, as a breastfeeding cover up, for teething, dribbling babies or even as a changing mat cover when out and about to keep the area hygienic
- EXCELLENT QUALITY PURE COTTON – made from 100% breathable cotton, these muslin burp cloths are top quality and machine washable. Cotton is super gentle to use on baby’s sensitive skin, breathable and extra absorbent too
- PACK INFORMATION – this pack contains 6 x muslin burp cloths, measuring 20" x 10" inches each. The cloths are 100% Cotton and have 6 layers of extra absorbent, soft material
- PERFECT BABY SHOWER GIFT – top of the baby registry, this is an essential item for new parents, the more the merrier where burp cloths are concerned! These white burp cloths are suitable for both boys and girls, easy to wash and very durable too. Each set of muslin cloths come with a pretty bow, ready to gift!
- Designed for CUTTING BOARDS First! Yes, it can be used as a general-purpose scrub brush, but it was designed specifically for food safe wood surfaces.
- Natural TAMPICO FIBERS offer the perfect blend of stiffness, abrasiveness, and suppleness that no plastic scrub brush can mimic.
- Made in USA from beautiful MAPLE. No cheap bamboo, no GLUE, no plastic, no Chinese imported goods. All-natural wood and plant fibers that are FOOD SAFE.
- ERGONOMICALLY designed to allow for serious scrubbing. Strong enough to remove that leftover cheese from where you cut your quesadilla but soft enough to not mar or scratch the wood surface.
- Scrub Brush can be used for: Cutting boards, butcher blocks, countertops, kitchen islands, and any other kitchen surface. It’s also a great general-purpose scrub brush, we look forward to hearing all the ways you use this brush!
- Ultra Durable - Forget fibers falling in food. Made for baking, BBQ, or spreading oil, our premium grade basting brush set won't shed, warp, or discolor on you!
- Odor & Stain-Free - Our expertly designed silicone brush set is both stain and odor resistant. The sleek design of each cooking brush will look excellent in any kitchen, and to top it all off, they're dishwasher safe!
- Lightweight - Designed with a soft, ergonomic handle, this light-yet-sturdy food brush is an ideal cooking accessory - from beginning bakers to chic chefs.
- Temperature-Safe - Turn up the heat! This versatile oil and BBQ brush works on grills & non-stick pans, and is heat-resistant up to 446 degrees.
- Spreads Easily - Designed with advanced liquid retaining technology, this kitchen brush offers a superior spread for your next meal.
Articles You Might be Interested:
- Why Do Some Cheeses Have Holes?
- Can I eat Cheese If I am Lactose Intolerant?
- The Importance of ‘Relaxing’ Your Cheese Before Serving
- 3 Tips to Enhance Your Cheese Tasting Experience
- How to Cut Cheese the Right Way (ART)
- How to ‘Taste’ Cheese Through the Nose
Last update on 2022-01-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API