In 2013 Blaenafon Cheddar cheeses will be stored, matured, and flavoured in Dan Yr Ogof Cave!
The Blaenafon Cheddar Company approached the cave company to see if they could store cheeses for a six month trial maturing process. During these six months it was hoped that the cheeses would naturally pick up a full flavour, and an earthy nutty characteristic from the damp cave atmosphere.
Mr Ashford Price, Chairman of the caves said “The trial cheeses were stored a quarter of a mile underground, and 500 ft below the surface. The initial tests were very successful, and the cheeses matured well. As predicted they did capture a unique taste from the cave atmosphere.”
Following these tests the Blaenafon Cheddar Co will now be putting batches of cheese in to the caves once a fortnight.
Mrs Susan Fiander-Woodhouse M.D. for Blaenafon Cheddar cheese said “this is another example of a food, & tourism business forging a great partnership. It has been a very exciting project, and we hope that everyone enjoys the finished product as much as we do!”
Tourists to the caves will be able to see the cheese containers in the cave, and sample the cheese in the coffee shop.
Mr Price finally added “It is hoped this truly unique Welsh cave cheese will become one of the ‘tastes’ of Wales for tourists to enjoy. It is already proving very popular with overseas visitors.”
But why store cheese in caves in the first place, well —–
Our ancient cave dwelling ancestors not only used caves as shelters, but also to cook and store their foods within the cave. Cave dwellers soon realised that caves had a constant natural internal temperature as they were cool places for them to go during the summer’s heat, and had a warmish ambient background temperature of 10 degrees centigrade in the winter.
Thousands of years later in the 1600’s cheese were first left in caves to mature. Cheese makers had ‘rediscovered’ that caves had a temperature that did not vary in the summer or winter. They also found that Caves had an atmosphere that contained a near 100% humidity. This dampness proved ideal for the cheeses to mature in. Also the Cheese Makers discovered that as the cheeses matured they picked up a unique ‘underground flavour’, and texture. More importantly their cheeses did not dry out during this maturing stage, or lose too much of their original weight.
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