David Lagnese, who owns PA Made Cheese and sells Western Pennsylvania cheeses at his East Liberty store and at the Farmers@Firehouse, has leased a space in a 103-year old limestone mine in Brady's Bend. The Armstrong County caves offer temperature and humidity at ideal cheese-friendly levels -- 56 degrees and 90-plus humidity, for storing and "ripening" products made by Western Pennsylvania cheesemakers.
"Cheese aging, or affinage, is a luxury most Western Pennsylvania cheesemakers have not had because they lack space and expertise," Mr. Lagnese said. "This facility is not happening a moment too soon. Sam Byler, of Riverview Dairy, has many wheels of sheep cheese ready to go into the cave now.
"Daniel Bruce, a Pittsburgher and CMU grad, who lived in California and has returned, owns the property which has been in his family for several decades. He's widely traveled and knowledgeable about European cheese and is enthusiastic about having cheese aged there. He's given us a very attractive arrangement."
Mr. Byler and brother, a cabinet-maker, are finishing up building shelving that the Byler and Lagnese families will install. With a week for the shelves to acclimate, the cheese wheels will be moved in to begin aging.
Mr. Lagnese reports that he is going to talk about the cave at a "Farmstead Cheesemaking" class in Mercer on July 25 through 27 taught by cheese consultant Peter Dixon, who will come visit the cave.
Virginia Phillips: firstname.lastname@example.org.