Monday, November 25, 2013

Flavorrr Caveee!!!!

by student blogger Kristin

It hasn’t been a secret over the past few months that I have been extremely impressed with the culinary science program. This semester’s classes have been no different. I am currently taking research and development, precision temperature cooking, and my personal favorite, microbial ecology. In this course, we study the life cycles of microorganisms that impact food and equipment in the kitchen. It is a wide spread misunderstanding in today’s world that all microorganisms in food are harmful, lead to food borne illnesses and can be extremely harmful to humans. While a percentage of them are potential killers, microorganisms are also responsible for some of life’s most enjoyable delicacies. I am personally thankful to microorganisms for its invention of cheese, aged sausage, soy sauce, beer, and wine. Could you imagine life without these things?

Naturally, as a part of this course, we have been creating long term fermented products to be tested at the end of the semester. Because we are holding these products for a long time, we of course need a place to store everything. Preferably a safe, warm, humid environment that promotes microbial growth. Cue the Flavor Cave.

About a two minutes walk away from the lab is another classroom building called McCann. In this building, the culinary science program has laid claim to a walk in refrigerator. This walk in, endearingly nicknamed the “Flavor Cave”, is a large refrigerator with a few shelving units held within. At first, this Flavor Cave did not look like much. It seemed to us to be only a skeleton of what was once an alive and thriving headquarters for food production. To be honest, I was afraid that the class I had been looking forward to for two semesters would turn out to be a disappointment. What we did not realize at the time, however, was that this was only the first of many field trips to the cave.

Within a few short weeks, what was an empty cavern became a home full of “class pets” that needed nurturing and care each day. Our pets, or our long term ferments, include dry aged sausages, cheese, sauerkraut and mead. With these products in the walk in, the Flavor Cave is now decorated with delicious food and is living up to its potential. Each day, my partner and I travel to the Flavor Cave to take care of our projects and gauge their progress. Here are some of the things we are working on:





Cheeses:

As a part of one of our labs, each team started their own cheese. In order to prepare them, we all separated the curds from the whey of milk. We then scooped the curds into different cheese molds and placed them into the flavor cave for aging. For the past few weeks, we have been taking time to visit and take care of each of our cheeses. My partner and I prepared brie cheese as our variation. As most people know, brie cheese has a tough skin and soft creamy inside. This is caused by the ability of the cheese to grow a mold on the outside which penetrates and softens the meat of the cheese. So far, each wheel of our cheese is completely covered in mold and has started to soften. Our Brie should be ready to consume in about another week! That is pictured here:






These are some pictures of the other groups' cheese variations. On the left is an example of a hanging aging cheese whereas on the right is an example of a gorgonzola.





Aged Meats:

As another weeks experiment, we each created sausage to be dry cured in the flavor cave. My partner and I created a variation of sausage called Saucisson Sec. We prepared the sausage, wrapped it in its casing, and hung it in the flavor cave. Over the course of four weeks, the meat began to dry out and grow a mold all over the outside. After the meat was completely dried out, the sausage was ready for consumption. We each got to consume the dry aged meat that we had been taking care of for weeks. It was delicious!





Miscellaneous:

Over the last few weeks of class, we have been creating other long term ferments to stock in the flavor cave. Two examples of these experiments are mead and sauerkraut, pictured here.

Every week, we start a new project that is added to the flavor cave for aging. At the end of this course, we plan to have a feast of all the fermentation projects we have been taking care of. I can not wait for this feast! 

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