I had some time this morning before work so I decided to have a tasty lunch and see what this cheese is really like at 27 days old. The paste is fairly dense and semi soft yet has a hint of crumble. It'll bend a fair amount but then separates in a jagged tear. The annato coloring is obvious but at least it's not nuclear orange like a mimolette.
There are a number of small mechanical openings that are very similar to other caerphilly's I've seen. The rind is well developed. The darker part of the rind is about 1/4 inch or less and then rapidly fades into the paste. I was afraid the rind would be too thick on the edges but that fear was unfounded. The rind is perfectly edible but has a very slight bitterness to it (I assume from the assorted flora that occurs naturally in the environment here.) Future experiments may include finding a cheese with a rind I really like and cultivating that for future cheeses.
Aroma is sweet milk with a cheddary undertone. I get a little herbaceous in there but I think my milk let me down. I have some Landaff that I brought in to work to compare and contrast and it definitly has the edge in aroma, almost like you can smell what the cows had for lunch that day. The Landaff is definitly more brittle than my caerphilly, almost like it wasn't pressed with as much pressure.
I put a small piece that broke off in the microwave to see how it melts and that turned out great. It melts really well and makes nice strings of gooey goodness. The small amount of hot melted cheese tasted really good. Mild cheddary notes with some salt to back it up. This is going to be a great melting cheese....look out welsh rarebit.
I ate a small wedge on the way out the door so it was at cave temp (~53F). The expected tang was there with a slight saltiness. There was a pleasant sharpness, much more than I expected but am happy to have it....about what you would expect from a commercial medium cheddar. I was surprised that the cheese didn't taste saltier given the amount of salt in it (1 tablespoon per gallon). More on the taste after it warms to room temperature and I eat it for lunch.
Overall, I am extremely pleased with this cheese. To the point I'm going to let some of my coworkers who are into cool cheeses try it and get their impression.
More to follow.
Now that it warmed up to room temp.....
Aroma is sweet milk with a little tang in the background. Very mild and pleasant. The rind has a somewhat more musty component to it. I'm kind of neutral about the rind. Perhaps in the next iteration I might try a little PLA or something similar....maybe just use some rind off an artisian cheese I like and make a spray.
Texturally the cheese is a little more brittle at room temp though still more flexible and plastic than the Landaff. I think next time I might cut the curd to about 3/8 to bring the moisture down just slightly although I think the Landaff is more likely aged much longer than 27 days.
The taste is mild and slightly salty though not overpoweringly so at all. There is a definite tang to it as well as some sharpness....not sure how to really describe the difference but to me the "sharpness" is more on the side of the toungue and the tang right up front on the tongue. But then again I could just be overthinking it.
The rind definitly has a noticable bitterness to it. I'm pretty sure it's due to the mold on it. The edge rind that didn't have a lot of mold is much more pleasant than the bottom rind that had a fair amount. There's sort of a mustiness to if that I can't decide if I like or not but it is a flavor I've tasted in cheeses before. It's probably like hops, start mild and before I know it I'll be considering the cheese paste to be a life support system for the gnarly rinds.
Comparing it to the Landaff: First flavor this one has is the tang, then the sharp cheddary and then a nice cover your tongue mild cheese that finishes with a very mild bitter on the back of the tongue if there was rind in the bite. The Landaff on the other hand has a pronounced salt blast as the first impression rapidly followed by the sharpness and tang. It's more brittle and doesn't have as long of a finish. The Landaff rind is thinner and more tender than mine and vaguely similar in taste. I like the Landaff a little better mostly because of the texture (I like hard cheeses) but over all I am not at all disappointed in my effort.
For the next go around I think that I may try to reduce the moisture a little bit to make the texture a little more crumbly and work on a better rind. I also think I need to work on keeping the humidity up in the cave.
Sorry if I blathered on too long but I wanted to get my thoughts down and work on making an even better cheese the next time.