Carefully and gently you pick up the cheese and put it in the palm of your hand. Take the thumb from your dominate hand and feel the cheese, going from the outside towards the center. If the cheese is firm, it is young. Some people like the cheese young. To me it has an almost goat-like quality to it that is tasty, but not what I'm looking for.
On occasion you will come across a St. F or M (apparently I'm lazy this time of night) that is soft to an almost barely set gelatin stage. This cheese is still good-for some people. I find that once it's reached that gelatin state I don't enjoy the cheese as much. I like having the creamy, oozy, gooey texture mixed in with the slightly firm but still deliciously spreadable texture.
As the cheese ages it becomes darker in color. It starts out white (when fresh) to an off-white/cream color, and then eventually,to a yellowish color.
Ultimately it's your palate that will decide at what stage you like the cheese, and I advise you to try each stage. Remember that once you cut into a cheese it will stop maturing, so you might have to buy this cheese a few times (quelle horreur!)
Remember earlier when I said that you should touch the cheese? Let me give you some guidelines to cheese touching:
- Cheesemongers are protective over their "babies" and you should ask before you start groping.
- Don't grope. Gentle hands are a must. Remember that cheese is alive and really doesn't want to be poked and jostled all the time.
- Cheesemongers are protective over their "babies" and you should ask before you pick up a cheese. I'll usually pick up the cheese, test it in front of the customer and then invite them to do it. I do this because I want you to touch the cheese, but without damaging it.
- Cheesemongers are protective over their "babies" and your baby should NOT TOUCH THE CHEESE! I love children-in theory. Just kidding. I like kids. I love when people bring their kids in to taste cheese. Love might be too strong a word. Appreciate might be more appropriate. If your child picks up the cheese, they will smash it. Why? Because they are children. If your child attempts to pick up the cheese I will tell them "No". I will then remind you (tactfully) that kids shouldn't be touching the cheese. You'll get upset and think that I'm criticising your parenting skills and will get angry. I will become confused by your anger and start freaking out trying to find a way out of this situation. Your kids will pick up on the sudden weirdness going on at the cheese case and they'll start freaking out which will make other customers freak out and then my boss will come in and try to smooth things over but it's too late because now it's WWIII and your kid is still squeezing the Edel de Cleron and I'm freaking out man! Whew!
- Seriously. Don't let your kids touch the cheese.