Ask Dr. Cheese: Sizing Up Goat Cheese

In recent years, California’s Redwood Hill Farm has introduced larger versions of two of its most popular goat cheeses: Cameo, an 8-ounce version of the 5-ounce Camembert-style Camellia; and Terra, a 5-ounce version of its 3-ounce California Crottin. In this interview with San Francisco Chronicle cheese columnist Janet Fletcher, Redwood Hill proprietor Jennifer Bice discusses the challenges of changing formats.

Why did you want to make the same cheese in a larger size?

Our 3-ounce Crottin was modeled after the French Crottin, which dries and gets hard as a rock. But Americans really like soft and creamy. They don’t like the Crottin when it gets hard. In retail environments with all that refrigeration, especially in coffin cases, there’s a lot of cold air movement. The Crottin gets put near a wind tunnel and it dries even more quickly. So then the cheesemonger overwraps it with plastic to keep it moist and it gets ammoniated. Making a bigger cheese was, in part, an effort to try to ensure better cheese for the retail customer. It stays moister and softer longer.

What were the technical considerations in changing format?

The main consideration was the draining and drying time. We’re using the same amount of culture and the same amounts of mold—Geotrichum candidum for Crottin/Terra and mostly Penicillium candidum with a little Geo for Camellia/Cameo. But the larger cheeses have to drain a bit longer and, because there’s more surface, they have to dry a little longer before they go into the aging room.

What about salting? Does that change?

Definitely. Crottin and Terra are hand salted, and Terra gets a little more salt but not in proportion to the increase in size. You can’t just go by weight because the Crottin dries more quickly, so you get the impression of the salt more strongly.

Camellia and Cameo are brined, and we give a bit more brine time on the Cameo. In that example, the increase is in proportion to the weight.

Any other surprises?

For both Camellia/Cameo and Crottin/Terra, we feel like the larger format ripens a little more desirably and into a more complex flavor. Why exactly, I don’t know. I think the ripening could be about retaining moisture so when the 8-ounce Cameo ripens it has a nice runniness to it. With the 5-ounce Camellia, it’s always a struggle to keep enough moisture in it.