Episode 022: The Cyclops' Cave... Greek Heroes Keep Wine and Cheese Underground

In “The Odyssey” by Homer, Odysseus and his crew find themselves on an island inhabited by the giant man-eating cyclops Polyphemus. Upon first entering the cyclops’ cave, the crew noted that it was well-stocked with wine and cheese. I believe they began helping themselves, which would probably explain why old Poly was so irritated and began eating members of the crew. Odysseus and the crew ended up escaping, but not before blinding Polyphemus, which was probably a really bad move considering that he was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and that Odysseus had already angered Poseidon, AND that they needed to sail across Poseidon’s sea to get home to Ithaca.

My point with all of this is simply that we know that at least as far back as Homer, and probably much further, people have been taking advantage of the stable, cool temperatures in caves for storing/aging wine and cheese.

Why does all of this matter? In this episode, we discuss the early planning and design phase of building a wine cellar, cheese cave, and root cellar into our basement. We had planned on this from the beginning of our construction, leaving one underground corner of the basement uninsulated (direct soil contact with the foundation walls and floor) and unheated. This will allow us to frame that corner into a 12’x16’ room, insulate it from the rest of the house, and allow it to naturally cool off. With a deep soil temperature of around 45 degrees F here, the room should theoretically maintain a temperature of about 55 degrees F year-round with no active/mechanical cooling devices installed. That’s the perfect temperature for storing and aging wine and cheese. Turns out it’s also a great environment for “root cellar” storage of a lot of garden produce- onions, garlic, carrots, turnips, winter squashes, pumpkins, melons, apples, and such. Even though our home-canned goods don’t require the cool dark temperatures of a root cellar, we’ll probably end up storing them in there as well since it certainly can’t hurt.

Additionally, we talk about koi ponds, gardens, orchards, vineyards, tractors, and marital disputes. Hope you enjoy this one.