Rory Stamp, an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional and winner of the 2018 Winter Cheesemonger Invitational, takes us on a journey aging and small wheel of Camembert-style Little Hosmer in the Cheese Grotto Classico over four weeks at room temperature. The results remind him of his experiences with authentic Camembert in France. You can use a similar technique to ripen whole wheels of Brie, a similar variety of cheese, in the Cheese Grotto.
Little Hosmer’s Big Adventure
Aging Camembert-style Cheese in the Grotto
by Rory Stamp
Almost a decade ago I spent a semester in Provence, “studying” all of the gastronomic delights southern France had to offer. Adventurous as I thought myself to be, I was thrown into the metaphorical deep end of French cheese: a journey into a marvelous diversity of flavors, textures, and aromas. Each night, my host parents presented a selection of cheeses at the end of the meal–a precious ritual that was unbroken in the 6 months I lived there. From Rocamadour to Roquefort, these cheeses would be brought out of refrigeration a couple hours before they served, filling this cavernous home with unimaginable odor. At end of every evening, I would select a morsel of each of my favorites while carefully navigating around the Camembert, prodding it to feign interest but internally shrieking in terror. Oozing, ammoniated, darkened, and bitter, these cheeses were far too advanced for my novice palate and turned me off to the style entirely. Only years later, studying cheesemaking and working as a cheesemonger, did I begin to appreciate the life cycle of a Camembert: a cheese that varies in flavor from delicate and crowd-pleasing to savagely pungent.
Equipped with my new Cheese Grotto Classico, I conducted a simple, room temperature experiment to identify the different profiles of a Camembert-style cheese. I started with five pieces of Jasper Hill Little Hosmer, an award-winning cow’s milk bloomy-rind made in Greensboro, Vermont, available in the Cheese Grotto Introductory Package. Placing the Grotto in the coolest part of my kitchen and away from direct sunlight, I maintained a relatively consistent temperature of 70F and 90% humidity, soaking the porous brick every two days to maintain moisture. At the same interval, I flipped and rotated the Little Hosmer to provide even rind development. Here are my results:
4 weeks - An Auspicious Beginning
At just over a month old, the cheese going into the Grotto is youthful and exuberant. With a fresh, dewy aroma and a bouncy texture that spring back easily when squeezed, this cheese is the perfect “gateway” bloomy rind. Flavors of clotted cream and buttered cabbage.
5 weeks - Delicate and Complex
Little Hosmer’s white exterior has developed a pristine fuzz, a plumey extension of it’s penicillium candidum rind that compresses when patted. The texture is supple without slumping, with big aromas of cooked brassicas like cauliflower and broccoli. Flavors are rich and buttery, hinting at more savory notes–this is just where I like it!
6 weeks - Robust but Balanced
This is an intermediate cheese: rusty in color, a more-developed rind, and pungent aroma. There is a touch of ammonia here on the nose, but it is certainly not unpleasant–a simple byproduct of the cheese ripening process. The interior is soft, with deeply savory flavors of broth and umami. Delicious.
7 weeks - Earthy and Intense
Little Hosmer is officially approaching black diamond territory, the sort of cheese that will incite fear in some and absolute delight in the adventurous turophile. The rind is mottled and thick, with a nutty, earthy aroma. Flavors of roasted meats, mustard, and brussel sprouts indicate a cheese that is perceivably salty with a slightly bitter finish. I divided this on a pizza with roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions, providing a perfect balance to Little Hosmer’s animal intensity.
8 weeks - The Bitter End
At eight weeks, four in the Cheese Grotto, this cheese is over the hill for me. Little Hosmer has a greyish-brown hue and a strong aroma of ammonia. A dry, dusty rind reveals a slightly oxidized interior–slumping and gooey. Here, bitterness is the most prevalent flavor, but there is still a background of mushrooms and butter that hints at the cheese of weeks past. While I don’t find this cheese particularly enjoyable, there is still intrigue for the expert cheese eater–this cheese approaches the intensity of some I have seen in Europe, where there is a greater tolerance for bitterness.
While a great cheesemonger can select a perfect piece of cheese for you, ultimately YOU need to decide what you enjoy most. The Cheese Grotto helps you better understand the journey of a cheese and to maximize the potential of it’s flavor. Wherever your favorite profile is on the spectrum, you can easily find the sweet spot with the Cheese Grotto.
More about Rory
American Cheese Society CCP and winner of the 2018 Winter Cheesemonger Invitational, Rory Stamp has worked in New England’s artisan cheese industry for more than six years. A native Vermonter, Rory began his career in cheese as a farmhand on Martha’s Vineyard, later training at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, apprenticing at Consider Bardwell Farm, working as a monger and educator at Formaggio Kitchen, and managing sales and distribution for Shelburne Farms. After building the Artisan Food Program at Dedalus Wine in Burlington, VT, Rory is now the Accounts Manager for MidwestRoots and the founder of COD Consulting, providing sales and marketing strategy to the specialty food and beverage industry. Rory serves on the board of the Vermont Cheese Council, Slowfood VT, and is accredited by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. Recently, he won the first ever Cheesemonger Invitational Masters in NYC and will represent the U.S. at the Concours Mondial du Meilleur Fromager in Tours, France in 2019.