The delicious luxury that tempts us in with it’s devilish charms — only to make us feel terrible once we’ve consumed the entire thing and can see it immediately on our hips.
A few days ago I wrote a Medium story about how I first got started making cheese and it received a really great reception from the folks on the cheese maker subreddit thanks guys! So I thought it definitely needed a follow up piece.
One Redditor asked me about cloth binding cheeses and how I choose to age them. I could have given a lengthy reply comment, but instead I decided that it would make a much better Medium article.
So this is for you Kzornig! And for anyone else who’s wondered how best they can age their cheeses but has been kept in the dark by “big cheese.”
If you enjoy making cheese or would like to get into it and have a question for me, please leave a comment and maybe it’ll become my next Medium article! Or I’ll just reply directly.
Alternatively if you just love cheesy things and want to see it made, add my cheesy Instagram below -
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4 Options for Wrapping your Cheese — in order of my preference.
Waxing is definitely my favourite method for aging cheese.
It’s my favourite method because it allows the cheese to breathe while also sealing everything in.
Other methods that don’t allow the cheese to breath cause issues. I’m talking about vacuum sealed bags.
Issues that I get from vacuum bags are caused from gasses building up inside. For one cheese it was carbon dioxide, something that is very natural for cheeses to release during the ageing process. This cheese released a larger amount than usual and blew up the bag like a balloon.
Waxing can be very intimidating for those who have only just made their first wheel and are looking for a viable way to keep it alive, but trust me when I say that it’s a lot less scary than it seems.
The best way to treat wax is like chocolate. Get your block of wax and put it into a metal bowl. (The wax I bought came with a bowl which was super handy).
Before you begin waxing, put down a sheet of aluminium foil for placing the cheese on as the wax dries. You’ll also put your stirring stick here too. (It helps to stir the wax as it melts, but any stirring stick you’re using to stir wax is now useless for any other purpose).
Do not let wax get on anything that’s not the cheese, the aluminium foil or the stirring stick. It’s a nightmare to clean off of anything.
With your wax in the bowl, put the bowl into a double boiler and boil the water underneath the wax.
Tip: Some people like to put the bowl directly onto the fire, they say that wax needs to be extremely hot to kill the bad bacteria thats living on the surface of the cheese. I don’t like to do this because wax is extremely flammable and very hot wax is just a little too dangerous for my taste. I take care of the bacteria problem ahead of time by washing my cheese wheel with brine solution and air drying it for a few hours before waxing.
The wax should be
melting down inside the bowl as it sits in the double boiler. I like to have the water touch the bowl and even be submerged by a few inches, it really speeds things along.
Once the wax has completely melted, hold the cheese horizontally by its edges and dip it into the wax and hold it for about 5 seconds submerged in the wax. Then flip the cheese 180 degrees in the air so that the wax is facing the sky and put the cheese down on your sheet of aluminium foil to dry.
Tip: Don’t be afraid of the wax touching your fingers, if you’ve used a double boiler there’s no way the wax is hot enough to burn you. It feels only about as hot as the wax they use to rip off your eyebrows.
Another tip: If your cheese is too wet to hold firmly by the sides then it’s not ready to be waxed. I’ve dropped a cheese in wax before. It was a nightmare.
After only a few minutes
the wax will be dry and you’ll be able to pick up your cheese once again, holding it firmly over the dry wax and dip the naked side into the molten wax bowl. After a few seconds you’ll once again flip it and put it down on the foil.
Do this a few more times on each side then let it dry properly on the foil. A few hours later you’ll be able to write the date on it and begin ageing it.
Don’t forget to flip it every day for the first few weeks, then every few days after that.
Cloth banding is another great option that allows cheese to breath, settle nicely and age naturally. The drawbacks are that it’s a bit messy and can get mouldy which grosses some people out.
I begin by cutting my cheesecloth into two circle shapes that are a bit larger than the size of the cheese wheel. After that I cut one long strip thats the length of the cheeses edge all the way around its circumference.
I then empty a sachet of lard into a saucepan and put it over a small heat until the lard has melted down and become clear.
Then set it aside and allow it to cool down just long enough so that it’s still semi-clear, but not all the way beige coloured again.
After that it’s time to either take your paintbrush or your hands and cover the entire cheese in the lard.
Once it’s nice and sticky, take the cloth circles and push them onto the top and bottom of the cheese. Now put the cheese into the cheese press and press it on 20 pounds for 2 hours.
Lard is going to ooze out of your press and your press is never going to feel the same again.
Take the cheese out once you’re done and add the side band to the cheese. Your circles should slightly covered the sides, so the band should go over top of it. If you have some remaining lard, I like to paint some over the edges of the cloth where the circles and the band meet, try to neaten up the package.
I then press the package for 12 hours on 15 pounds of pressure.
Once thats all done I put the cheese into the real fridge for 24 hours, then move it to the cheese fridge.
The cheese fridge shelf is going to be sticky and gross from the lard, but eventually the cloth stiffens and starts to grow mould.
I usually clean the mould off for the first month with brine solution, but I let it go crazy after that. Just keep an eye on the types of moulds growing. If you don’t like mould at all, just keep washing it for the length of time you choose to age it.
This is the laziest way to age cheese, and many cheese makers will never touch it.
This is because it seals everything in, including carbon dioxide.
Many people claim they can taste a difference between a cheese that is aged in plastic and one that is aged properly, but others call bullshit.
To do it this way,
just wait until your cheese is dry and simply vacuum seal it inside a bag thats big enough.
Add it to your cheese fridge right away, don’t forget, you still need to turn it regularly.
I find that the cheeses best suited for this type of ageing is cheese that have a sensitive skin, such as cheeses that you age covered in something that comes off easily, like herbs or chilli salt.
Coatings like this can go everywhere in the cheese fridge, and its impossible to dip in wax. So plastic is a viable solution for this type of cheese.
One way I love to age cheese is with a coating thats going to keep it relatively ageless, like olive oil, coconut oil, wine or lard.
One cheese that I made was a goji berry gouda that after pressing I submerged entirely in red wine for three days, turning once.
After that I put it on a rack in the cheese fridge and brushed it in new red wine every week for two months. It aged perfectly and tasted like heaven.
Another cheese I made was a fine cheddar that I submerged in beer, also for three days.
For the first month of it’s life I brushed it with new beer every three days, but after four weeks I grew concerned about its darker colouration and the lines it was developing from dryness.
So I switched to olive oil. I now put on gloves and rub it down with extra virgin olive oil every week. I’m now four months in and the cheese is a beautiful golden colour, it smells great and its hardened into a beautiful texture and weight. I can’t wait to discover how it’s going to taste.
This is definitely the most labour intense way to age cheeses, but the payoff is big. I just cracked open a jack cheese last night that I aged with Chardonnay and every mouthful tasted like I was chewing the cheese having just sipped from a far more expensive glass of wine then I’ve ever had in my life.
And that’s it!
Those are all four ways I age my cheeses. If you have any cheesy questions do let me know in the comments. Happy cheesing!
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