There are plenty of curious things stored underground in New York City, but this might be the most exciting since it contains something most people love: food, specifically, cheese. Crown Finish Caves is a underground facility is located in an 1850’s tunnel 30 feet underneath the street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. But they don’t make cheese here, instead, they are in the business of the cheesemaking process, called “affinage”– that is, aging young cheese (called “Green Cheese”).
The tunnel is located in the former Nassau Brewery in Crown Heights, a space they moved into in 2014. It’s where they receive cheese produced mostly from at most 250 miles away, shipped from local, artisan producers (and even some distant ones from Italy) ensuring that when it arrives it’s only 1 to 14 days old.
So why use historic tunnels? The tunnels are able to maintain a temperature of 50 degrees fahrenheit year round, making ideal cheese aging conditions. Though they have been modified to maintain those conditions to become a licensed New York State Dairy Plant.
Fitted with state-of-the-art equipment, the tunnels are fashioned with the temperature, airflow, and humidity control systems from the French company Clauger. The work on the cheese is not just as simple as leaving a wheel on a shelf, really there’s a much more complex system involved. There’s also some experimenting going on as well, but naturally, those ideas are kept secret.
When the tunnels run at full capacity, the main one holds 22,000 pounds of cheese, even then it’s only almost full. Their cheeses can be found all over the New York City metropolitan area, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Nashville, and Chicago. The “affinage” process is a centuries old practice, but it’s prominent in the cheese industries in Europe, and now it has made its way over to Brooklyn.
Crown Finish Caves are not open to the public for visits, but you can get a wonderful inside look by following their instagram, where they post daily about all the different facets of cheese aging. Stay tuned for more by Untapped Cities on Crown Finish Caves!
Next, check out Aw Shucks: The Tragic History of New York City Oysters.