Thursday, July 16, 2015

Waxing Cheese

So this weekend I made cheddar. And the final part of making cheddar, of course, is waxing the cheese.

Tools of the trade:

The wax is actually cheese wax, a special kind of wax (lower melting point, I believe) available from most brewing or cheese making companies (Insert shameless promotion of The New England Cheesemaking Company here. Good people, good products, good prices, amazing service) .  The brush is just a paint brush dedicated to the purpose (but natural bristles only - artificial bristles will melt!).  The coffee can (God Bless Cafe du Monde) is a standard steel coffee can (much harder to come by now than one might thing).  I have made a simple double boiler for the purposes of melting the wax.

Please note the plate is covered with foil.  Critical if you do not want to spend time trying to peel wax off your everyday china.

The point of waxing cheese is to seal the cheese away from the air (and more importantly, bacteria) allowing it to ripen.  Importantly, it is necessary to allow the cheese to become air dry to touch before attempting to ripen it and that the cheese be at room temperature - if not, moisture will leak out the cheese when waxing it, making it messy and difficult to wax (do not ask me how I know this).

I first do a coat across the larger surface area, trying to make sure that the wax drives down into the nooks and crannies:

After the initial coat, I will allow it to dry and then re-coat the surface, again paying attention to any spot I may have missed:

I then flip it over and do the other side.

This leaves us with the sides:

Same process as the large flat areas including making sure that the uneven surfaces are covered.  Equally important is to overlay the wax on the already waxed areas to ensure a full even coat.

Some people actually just have a large pot filled with wax that that use to directly dip the cheese into. I tried this once with a pie pan.  Having learned my lesson, I just take more time to paint the wax on (hot wax all over except on the cheese will do this for you).

The finished result:  A round of sealed cheese, ready to go into the aging chamber (otherwise known as the garage refrigerator) to age a minimum of 3 months:

It is not a particularly time intensive process - about 10 minutes to heat the wax, another 15 - 20 to apply the wax, and then about another 10 minutes for clean up, so less than an hour total.  Interestingly, wax gives some protection to even room temperature stored cheeses (think cheese caves) and can be used for the same purposes of sealing (preserving) the cheese even for purchased cheese (so I hear - I have only ever used it on home made cheese here). And, the wax is recyclable, so even as I preserve this cheese I can look forward to cleaning it and reusing it again.

And it is a remarkably soothing process.  I get to concentrate on nothing but the cheese, making sure that it is completely covered, looking for flaws in the covering and then covering them.  Over time, the wax takes on striations as the wax bunches up and then runs over. When complete, I hold in my hand both a handmade item I can enjoy visually and that I can look forward to feasting on in the future.

Think of it as painting, except I get to eat the end result.


PioneerPreppy said...

Would it work better over all to put the cheese block in the foil side up and do an entire half at once then wait to dry and do the other?

I wonder if straight bees wax would work just as well?

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I suppose the answer to your first question is yes, Preppy, although every depictionI have seen involves holding the cheese. Gives a bit more control over application, I suppose. I do not know about beeswax, but that might just be due to the value of the wax. In theory it should work.