An Explanation of Changes to Category “T” – Washed Rind Cheese for 2015
By John Greeley, ACS Judging Chair Emeritus
When the Judging & Competition (J&C) Committee removed the “T” Aged Sheep and “U” Aged Goat cheese categories in 2013, the Washed Rind Category became TA, TC, TG and TS.
The J&C Committee created the original “V” Washed Rind Category in 2003 as a remedy for cheesemakers who entered smear-ripened cheeses into the Soft Ripened Category “B.” At that time, I was sure we had captured the essence of the cheese that starts out in the vat as soft ripened but develops with careful handling, control of time, acidity, and pH into full-flavored and aromatic curds quite different from their snow-white rinded cousins.
The original definition focused on Limburger and Pont-l’Évêque style cheese that used the traditional hand-smearing of Brevibacterium (B-linens) over the rind to ensure even coating/washing and were then ripened in an atmosphere dampened with spores. The result was a sticky rind, intense aromas, and soft 8 – 16 oz. cheeses.
We didn’t see the need to add a recipe to the definition, so Washed Rind entries were:
“Cheeses with a rind or crust washed in salted brine, whey, beer, wine, or other alcohol or grape lees that exhibit an obvious smeared or sticky rind and/or crust.”
But in 2008, we started to see entries that went beyond that simple direction. Cheeses formally entered into Category “D” – International Style/American Made and Category “M” – Farmstead, migrated in strong numbers over to Category “V” – Washed Rind Cheese. They ranged from 70 lb Gruyere to 4 ounce Liederkranz.
In 2010, the J&C Committee responded by expanding the Washed Rind Category to include the larger, aged cheeses defined as Category VA:
“Cheeses aged more than 90 days with up to 44% moisture – all milks.”
The J&C Committee thought this definition would keep the soft-ripened, small, sticky/smeared rinded cheeses together and apart from the large, aged, washed rinded entries. But this extra category, VA, actually attracted more entries into the wrong categories.
In 2012, Canadian cheesemakers entered 28 soft-ripened, washed rind-style and 4 lb. monastery-style washed rind cheeses true to the original 2003 definition. The Ontario and Québec cheesemakers defined washed rind cheese as narrowly as we had in 2003. But, the U.S. cheesemakers’ entries included Raclette, Fontina, Monastery styles, Munster, Piedmont, and Lombardy-styles. Traditional Category “D” and “M” style cheesemakers found their way to the VC/VG/VS Washed Rind Open Categories instead of VA. These washed rind cheeses were firm, aged, and large, and not part of the original blueprint. We began to realize that the problem wasn’t what cheesemakers were making – it was the category definitions they were trying to fit into.
The J&C Committee went back and compared the Washed Rind entries in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Most of them remained loyal to their Washed Rind categories over three years. Unfortunately, many soft, small, hand-smeared, bacteria-ripened cheeses were also being judged with large, aged, firm cheeses that had their rinds washed with brushes. We needed to do a better job of defining categories for the cheesemakers and for the judges.
In October & November 2014, the six member ACS Category Review Sub-Committee visited the websites of many of the entries from the Sacramento Judging & Competition. We thought that, because the majority of cheeses used original names, they might not be true to the Category definition. Instead, we found that many cheeses were actually soft, washed, smeared, sticky, and proudly identified as models of their European originals: Taleggio, Langres, Livarot, Limburger, Munster, St. Nectaire, Epoisses, Pont-l’Évêque, OKA from Canada, and Liederkranz from the USA.
There were 129 Washed Rind cheese entries in 2012 in Raleigh, NC. There were 123 entries in Madison, WI in 2013, and 133 entries last year in Sacramento, CA. Raclette and small, soft-ripened washed rind cheeses were consistently entered in enough numbers to justify a separate category. In 2015, the definitions are much more detailed, with additional examples to help cheesemakers decide where their cheese belongs.
- Category TB (NEW, replacing “TA”): Soft-Ripened Washed Rind – All Milks
“Cheese using soft ripened cheese-make recipes with these differences from white mold rinds:
Cheese with an elevated pH and lower acidity, high moisture over 42% and exhibiting an obvious smeared or sticky rind or crust (B-Linens/ Brevibacterium).
Examples of bacterial surface-ripened cheeses in the style of: Alsatian Munster, Chimay, Epoisses, Italico, Langres, Limburger, Pont-l’Évêque, Robiola, St. Nectaire, Taleggio, Vacherin Mont d’Or.
Excluded: Brined/washed rind cheeses with very firm texture, larger than 6 lbs. and a moisture reading of less than 42%.”
- Category TR (NEW): Raclette-style – Aged over 45 days – All Milks
“Alpine-style cheese able to be scraped when warmed and melts without excess free oil release. NOTE – All entries in this category will be cooked for judging”
- OPEN CATEGORY – WASHED RIND CHEESES (The J&C Committee has included an enhanced definition & examples)
“This category is for cheese that does not belong in any of the above listed categories. Cheeses aged more than 60 days with up to 40% moisture.
TC: Open Category – Washed Rind Cheeses – Cow’s Milk
Examples: Appenzeller-style, Vignerons-style, Alpine-style, Monastery-style
TG: Open Category – Washed Rind Cheeses – Goat’s Milk
TS: Open Category – Washed Rind Cheeses – Sheep’s, Mixed, or Other Milks”
The J&C Committee appreciates and welcomes all of the Washed Rind cheesemakers that have made this category so successful. It has produced Best of Show and Best of Show runners-up. We look forward to evaluating and enjoying your cheese in Providence, RI this summer!