Ask the Cheesemonger
Q: Cheesemakers often refer to their “cave.” What exactly is it?
A: Essentially, a cheese cave is a temperature- and humidity-controlled space that provides an optimum environment for cheese storage and ripening. That said, such a space can exist in various forms. There are the ancient, natural, and very cave-y caves at Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, France; the brand-new, high-tech, warehouselike cellars at Jasper Hill, Vermont; and even the wet paper towel in a Tupperware container in your refrigerator’s vegetable crisper at home. Generally speaking, a proper cheese cave will be a bit warmer (48°F to 50°F) than a standard refrigerator and have a much greater concentration of moisture (90%).
Here at Murray’s in Manhattan, we have a series of five custom-built caves underneath our shop. A lot of consideration and special features went into their construction—poured concrete walls finished with a mineral wash, vaulted ceilings, natural wood shelving, low-airflow refrigeration, and cool-mist humidification, to be specific. Each cave is kept at a different temperature and humidity level, ranging from the coldest, at 38°F and 65% humidity for dry cold storage, to the warmest, wettest cave, at 55°F and 93% humidity for washed-rind cheeses. Our goal is to create a nurturing habitat for the wide variety of cheese styles that we care for—and for the equally varied microorganisms that ripen them.
Founder, Culture magazine