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What’s a Cheese Cave?

Italian cheese aging cave
Cheesemakers often refer to their “cave.” What exactly is it?
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.

Kate Arding

Kate Arding is an independent dairy consultant specializing in small-scale cheese production and an original co-founder of culture: the word on cheese. A native of Britain, Kate has worked in the farmhouse cheese industry for 18 years, first as wholesale manager for Neal's Yard Dairy in London and later helping establish Cowgirl Creamery and Tomales Bay Foods in California. Since 2003 Kate has worked extensively both in the United States and overseas as an independent consultant, specializing in affinage, sales and marketing, and helping small-scale cheesemakers adapt to changing market demands.