How does cheese age? Take a look inside Murray’s Cheese caves in Long Island City

Posted at 2:57 PM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 15:15:14-04

LONG ISLAND CITY — Cheesemakers are craftsmen. Every slice, every smell and every rind is different, delivering all of the unique flavors and textures foodies know and love.

But creating cheese isn’t just a work of art. It’s also a science.

“We can actually use [cheese] to look at the different microbial communities, talk about how they interact with each other and actually how these microbes tend to give us a flavor and a taste we get when we have cheese," said Dr. Odaelys Walwyn-Pollard, a Scientist-Educator for the RockEDU Science Outreach program.

No one knows that better than Murray’s Cheese. First opened in 1940, the shop carries over 300 types of cheeses at its Greenwich Village store and online.

What makes Murray’s unusual is the retailer doesn’t just sell cheese. It also ages it at the company’s Long Island City distribution center.

"We receive what we call 'green cheese' from all over the world pretty much," said Peter Jenkelunas, Murray's Cheese's Senior Caves Manager. "We have four unique caging spaces and we bring the cheeses to maturity there."

Each of the caves have a purpose: The Alpine Cave houses larger, lower moisture cheeses that are aged sometimes over a year, the Bloomy Rind Cave ages soft-ripen cheeses like Bries and Camemberts for short periods of time, the Washed Rind Cave lets cheesemakers experiment with different salty wash solutions like beers, wines and ciders, and the Natural Rind Cave lets the cheeses grow with minimal intervention by cave managers.

PIX11 News visited Murray’s headquarters alongside Math for America, a nonprofit that provides four-year fellowships to outstanding New York City science and math teachers. The excursion was one of several dozen courses offered each semester.

“Everybody wants to keep learning and growing," explained Megan Roberts, the organization's Executive Director. "What we do at Math for America is create opportunities for teachers to lead each other, learn from each other and work with businesses like Murray's to bring science into their schools with their students."

In addition to the tour, Math for America partnered with Walwyn-Pollard to give fellows a science and cheese-tasting lesson. It was the first of three classes the group will take as part of the course.

For more information how to schedule a private tour, visit Murray's Cheese's website.