This fall has been unseasonably warm. By mid-October, we should usually see the season turn. Today is a cool temperature of 57 degrees F, but the weather climbs as the week goes on, bringing us back to some perpetual late Indian summer.
The reason I wait with such anticipation: I will be taking my Grotto out of the refrigerator.
Yes, with fall and winter in the Northeast comes cool air blowing in from my windows, and the draft keeps my cheese perfectly happy at a cooler room temp. It's the time of year where I can rely a bit more on the natural elements to keep my cheese fresh. This may be because I love a rustic lifestyle. It is also because I lived and traveled in France, and it brings me back to a different sensibility about food, one where food microbes are a healthy part of life. I love to see how my cheese ripens out in the air, inside the Grotto.
As quoted from the great cheese expert Steven Jenkins:
"French cheese lovers serve fine cheeses almost daily. They, I, we, care deeply about a cheese's 'á point'. therefore we strive to keep our constant stash ripe and ready until the cheeses are gone. So that means they must be kept constantly at room temp. Swaddling, de-swaddling and then having to re-swaddle is, to the cheese lover who plates cheeses so very often, beyond bothersome, and we have no notion of wrapping and re-wrapping. Nor do we want to put up with waiting an hour or so for them to warm up. to us it's a needless inconvenience. not to mention the ill-service rendered by a refrigerator or cellar. cheeses that are repeatedly in and out of refrigeration are simply being abused. this practice has a definite, perceivably negative affect. Textures, fragrances and flavors are confounded by what's going on in those places. we are admittedly obsessive. and here we have the 'raison d'etre' of the cheese grotto. Soft-ripened cheeses, middle-aged chevres, mountain cheeses, blue cheeses -- all are properly cosseted by the grotto in the manner they deserve. Fine cheese that you have spent a lot of money on should be brought home and consumed over a period of days -- not weeks. That's only fair to that particular cheese. Wrapped, refrigerated cheeses hanging around for more than a week are stale cheeses. Buy smaller portions. Knock them off. Go back to [the cheese shop] more often. Keep them in your gorgeous grotto, and keep it nearby."
I wrote down some of the rules of thumb for getting started storing your cheese at room temp here.
Photography by Direwolf & Co