While traveling in Spain, I fell in love with aged Manchego cheese: the older the better. I can easily find Imported 1-year old Manchego in the US, but it just isn't what I remember -- either the farms willing to do export aren't as good, the cheese hasn't been aged long enough, or maybe the context is all wrong and one can only enjoy Manchego in the dry winds of La Mancha. Northern California has a number of artisan cheese makers, but doesn't have a strong cheese-aging tradition. Most cheese here is measured in months, not years like in Spain. So, I decided to try aging some locally produced cheese myself.
Step 1: Plan the Cave's Construction
The crawl space under my house is pretty cool most of the year, and I even measured the temperature of the ground a few inches below the surface at 59°F. However, there are vents to the outside, so the humidity is the same as ambient, and it rarely gets as high as 80%. I briefly considered converting a pantry with an exterior wall into a temperature-controlled cave using a window air conditioner and CoolBot controller -- but you know things are getting out of hand when you consider cutting holes in the wall for cheese you haven't yet tasted. In the end, I decided to follow the rough outline of the Converting a fridge for fermenting beer Instructable, and use a small fridge with a temperature controller placed in the crawlspace.