There’s a terrific article in the NYT food section today defining and discussing the advantages of affinage for the cheese retailers (some of whom are becoming affineurs), as well as for the customer. It includes a loud and strident argument against the benefits of affinage by cheesemonger and author Steve Jenkins, claiming it’s “a total crock” and “all it does is drastically inflate the cost of cheeses that have benefited zero from this faux-alchemical nonsense.” The story has many quotes from the best known practitioners of affinage (Murray’s, Jasper Hill, Artisanal) as well as many cheese makers (Cowgirl Creamery, Vermont Butter and Cheese) who also speak to it’s critical nature in the production of high quality cheeses. The payoff comes at the end of the article when three NYT food writers critique a blind tasting of the same cheeses from Murray’s, Artisanal, and Fairway (where Jenkins is the cheese buyer).
Posted in News.
i guess what steve jenkins is saying is that as a retailer you should be able to buy cheese and sell it as is without a lot of fussing over it. in an ideal world that would be true but sometimes the cheeses languish for weeks in warehouses waiting to get from the farm to the store. not to mention sitting at the store until it’sold. the soft mold ripened cheese suffer the most but i have seen natural rind cheese where the rind actually falls off the cheese from sitting in a cryovac for god knows how long. i finally got to tour murrays caves last week and they are pretty dedicated to selling the best quality cheese they can. they take extra care with the soft and washed rinds. so anyway i can see both sides of the article(but steve jenkins is wrong):)
I can see that Jenkins might prefer to buy “ready cheese” and sell it as quickly as possible. But he goes one step further, and calls affinage “a total crock” as if it does nothing more than “hold” the cheese so that you can charge more for it. The taste test proves that whatever Jenkins has instructed Fairway to do with their cheeses actually makes them worse, while the same cheeses that are sold by retailers who practice affinage are obviously of superior quality. And the Fairway cheeses are NOT always the lowest cost, either. So not only is Jenkins wrong about the benefits of affinage, but he’s obviously ignorant about the proper way to store and sell cheese, and spreading extremely bad information to the cheese consumers.