At Buchanans Cheesemonger we source the finest artisan cheeses from the best producers and condition them so that they may be enjoyed at their very best in London’s top restaurants. Matthew, our Cellar Manager, has been looking after the cheese in our maturing rooms for two and a half years.
Why did you enter the competition?
It often seems that the role of the affineur is underestimated or even unknown to most people, so we wanted to join Quicke’s and the Academy of Cheese in showing what affinage is all about. We enjoyed the results of the Quicke’s/Montgomery cheddar swap experiment back in 2017 so we are interested to see what differences there will be in each of the competitor’s cheeses.
What is your relationship with affinage to date?
Affinage has always been at the core of what we do. Our cheeses are tended to by our team of cheesemongers, moving them between our maturing rooms that run at different temperatures and humidity levels depending on what the cheese needs.
Most of our affinage is focused on small, soft cheeses as they change the most during the time between arriving with us from the cheesemaker and going out to a restaurant or retail customer.
With hard cheeses we generally work with the producer to select a grade and flavour profile that we like, and it comes to us more or less ready for sale, having spent most of its maturation period with the cheesemaker. So, for us to get a cheddar this young is unusual.
How are you approaching the maturation and why have you chosen this approach?
We are storing our cheese in our maturing room which is held at a temperature of 11–12°C and humidity level of 85–90%. Both the temperature and humidity in our maturing room can fluctuate because it’s a small space with people and cheeses coming and going. We plan to measure the temperature right next to where the cheese is so that we can move it around until we find the best spot for it.
We are looking forward to seeing how a cheese like this develops under our care and what effect the unique microflora of our own maturing room might have on its character. Unlike the conditions in the cheese store at Quicke’s, our maturing room is a small space filled with a wide variety of different cheeses, which is likely to have an effect on our competition cheese.
We will be turning the cheese once a week to ensure an even distribution of moisture, and de-miting at the same time to prevent damage and blueing.
We are doing all of the above with the aim of retaining the quality of the cheese and the flavour of the milk, whilst hopefully adding an extra dimension that reflects the environment of our maturing room.
What are you expectations for the matured cheese, including its flavour profile after 9 months?
When we tasted the cheese at 3 months it was tasting quite buttery, sweet and grassy. We hope that these flavours will develop and still be evident in the cheese after nine months, but with some added savoury depth and complexity. As for what flavour profile our maturing room environment might contribute, we don’t really have any expectations! It will be interesting to see how it differs from the Quicke’s cheddar we know and love.