I toured Murray’s Cheese caves. Who knew there was an underground cave on Bleecker Street where mold grows on aging cheeses in a painstaking, meticulous process. If you go through the swinging doors to the back room of the cheese shop, you see an area you would expect to see where cheeses are cut and wrapped. However, once you put on your blue booties, hair net and jacket to keep sterile and walk through another set of swinging doors, you arrive into a cold, temperature-controlled room. There are four doors reminiscent of Medieval times.
Behind each door is a small room with a different set of conditions to ripen each type of cheese inside. Some cheeses take only weeks to ripen; others, months or years. Some cheeses require a drier atmosphere and some require a more humid atmosphere. Some ceilings need to be vaulted for air circulation and some not. Some cheeses need to be washed or brushed. Bacteria is added to some cheese, sometimes being sprayed on. Each cheese is individually cared for to create its unique taste.
Here, you can see the younger, fresher cheese on the bottom shelf. This is something you would find at Whole Foods, for example, because they don’t have the special caves to age the cheeses. The cheeses that appear whiter are the aged cheeses, and the white is the mold that has grown.
On some of the cheeses, the mold looks like short, light hairs. Or like ripples.
Some of the rooms smell like ammonia to varying degrees. In one particularly ammonia-smelling room, there was a French cheese with a particular mold that only comes from that area. On a shelf opposite that cheese is a cheese from Italy that the French mold spores attached to. This mold sharing affects the taste of the other cheeses to create something with a different flavor.