Affineur of the Year 2022- Neals Yard
Where are you maturing the cheese?
We are maturing the cheese in our shop in Borough Market, where our Retail team will be keeping a watchful eye over the next 9 months as this cheddar sits proudly on display in the shop, alongside our other whole cheeses that we go on to sell.
Why did you enter the competition?
Whilst our Borough Market site was at one point the maturation facility for the entire company, it is now a rare occurrence that we receive a hard cheese so young, and hold on to that hard cheese for such an extended portion of it’s life. It will be a learning experience in hard cheese affinage and it will give us an idea of the various microclimates in the shop – consequentially about the effects of our shop ‘terroir’ on the products we sell – what makes a unique Neal’s Yard Dairy Borough Market cheese, and could it be of benefit to the other cheeses that we sell?
What is your relationship with affinage to date?
At the moment most of the cheeses we take care of are in the final stages of their ripening at the Borough Market shop. Our retail team has some experience with the maturation team in Bermondsey
How are you approaching the maturation and why have you chosen this approach?
We are keeping the cheddar in our Market Room in Borough Market. It sits proudly on display to our customers alongside a rotating selection of other British and Irish whole cheeses that we go on to sell. We aim to keep the shop at between 11-15 degrees Celsius and humidity hovers around 70%, this allows the whole cheeses we receive to gently ripen in the final stages of their affinage journey. But even with active steps to maintain this (we have a humidifier, we drench the floor with water every night and we have fans to keep the shop cool), we are at mercy to the outside world – when the shop is open, our doors are open. The temperature can creep up sometimes or the humidity can drop. At Neal’s Yard Dairy a lot of what we do is appreciating the idiosyncrasy of a cheese due to a given terroir and time, and not forcing it to match an ideal flavour, so we will leave our cheddar on this shelf, and hopefully have something delicious at the end of it.
What are your expectations for the matured cheese, flavour profile after 9 months?
In the past, the slightly warmer shop environment has coaxed out preexisting flavours, sometimes for the better….sometimes not.