A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going into one of the finest places underground NYC. Crown Finish Cave.
Many of you may be familiar with the term “affinage”( the infinitive, Affiner) – a french word derived from Latin “ad finis” meaning “towards the limit.” Affinage, as it relates to cheese, is the act of caring for cheeses as they age so that they may reach their limit of perfection and then sold at peak ripeness for consumption. An Affineur is someone who cares for the cheese to reach this limit.
Crown Finish Cave and Parish Hill Creamery have partnered in this underground endeavor. Sam and Benton (of Parish Hill creamery) are the affineurs at Crown Finish Cave and have worked hard putting this cave together and caring for the cheeses. What was originally used as a lagering cellar, and most recently as an old storage facility, the space has returned back full circle storing and aging fermented foodstuffs. The beautiful brick arched space has been thoroughly cleaned and outfitted with state-of-the-art technology to help keep the cheese healthy and aging properly. To keep mold healthy and thriving and (the by-product) ammonia vented but prevent air from circulating too quickly as to not dry out the cheese, caves need proper air circulation and humidity . Through research and consulting, Benton was turned on to the top-of-the-line French company specializing in air treatment, Clauger.
This even air flow and consistent humidity provide ideal conditions for growing mold and aging cheese.
Each style of cheese is labeled with type and date and placed on a wood board that sits nicely on the metal frame. Each wooden board pulls out from the metal frame when cheese needs to be washed, brushed, or flipped, and then slid back in.
The cave also holds cheese from local creameries around the New York City area. With the cave being in its infancy stages, there are currently few cheeses from other dairies but there is hope to expand out of the one room and into all five rooms of the cave.
Here, many Suffolk Punch hang. Suffolk punch is a pasta filata cheese, curd stretched by hand and hung to dry and age.
Sam and Benton have taken on two wheels of experimental goats’ milk cheeses from respected cheesemakers to see how the cheese will age. A lot of cheesemaking and aging is science, another portion is a combination of experience and experimentation.
Since the caves had once been an old lagering facility, it is possible that the yeasts used during beer fermentation may still lay dormant in the space. The slightly moist, acidic, and salty cheese may be the perfect medium for these yeasts to begin growing again – adding their own specific flavor to the cheese and providing a unique Crown Heights, Brooklyn terroir.
I do look forward to tasting Brooklyn via cheese.
For more information, please visit the Crown Finish Cave website