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Waxing the Cheese

Jan
16


Hard cheeses are waxed to keep the cheese from becoming too dry and to retard mold growth during the aging process. Hard cheeses that are air-dried go through that process for two to five days (two to four days for farmhouse cheddar) before being waxed. (Some hard cheeses such as Swiss or Parmesan are soaked in a brine solution and don’t require waxing.)

You can buy cheese wax from a cheese supply house. I purchase all my supplies from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. Cheese wax comes in red, yellow, and black. Wax made specifically for cheese is stronger and more pliable than paraffin, and is reusable. This is a five-pound block. (Probably more than you need starting out, unless you’re planning to make a lot of cheese, which I am.)

I waxed my farmhouse cheddar on the fourth day. How long you air-dry the cheese before waxing depends on the temperature and humidity in your house. The purpose of the air-drying period is to develop a protective rind on the cheese. (Comparable to the crust on bread–for those of you who are bakers and are trying to figure out what I mean.) My cheese probably had a good enough rind on the second day, but I waited, mostly because I was busy. It doesn’t hurt to let it go the full four days.

To prepare the cheese for waxing, I dipped a small piece of butter muslin in white vinegar and wiped the entire surface of the cheese. This eliminates any mold development (even unseen). After wiping the cheese off, chill it for several hours prior to waxing. (It’s easier to wax cold cheese.)

Having never waxed cheese before, I wasn’t sure how much wax I’d need. I cut off a couple of small (approximately 2 inches by four inches) pieces of wax.

Two pieces that size were just one corner off the five-pound block. (And turned out to be more than enough to wax a two-pound round of cheese.)

Melting cheese wax is similar to working with candle wax. Be careful. Pay attention to your melting pot. Cheese wax should be melted at 210-degrees. Don’t get the wax any hotter than necessary to melt and never leave it unattended.

I use a makeshift double-boiler, just as I do when making candles. You don’t want your cheese wax pot to come into direct contact with the heat.

To wax your cheese, you’ll need a dedicated cheese wax pot, a wax brush, and cheese wax. I’m using a small pot–I don’t mind if I have to go a second round melting additional wax as needed and it was the only pot I was willing to sacrifice right now to permanent cheese wax service. Wax is difficult to clean, so re-using the same pot over and over simplifies your life. Also, this wax will come into contact with food, so using your regular candle waxing pot is out.

You also need a dedicated cheese wax brush that is used only for cheese. Do not use a nylon brush–it will melt in the wax. Use any natural bristle brush.

You can use any type of pot–if you intend to dip your cheese to wax it, you will need a large enough pot to dip whatever size of cheese you will be using. Dipping requires melting more wax at a time because you need enough in the pot to dip. I’m using a small pot and applying the wax with a brush.

Apply the wax on one surface of the cheese at a time.

Cheese wax sets up quickly. (Reheat your wax pot as needed, or keep the pot on the stove on low while you’re waxing.)

Turn the cheese and continue applying wax. Apply at least two coats over the entire surface of the cheese.

Waxing cheese is very easy and it doesn’t take long. It took less than 15 minutes for me to wax this two-pound round of farmhouse cheddar.

Cheese wax can be re-used–when you’re ready to eat the cheese, the wax peels off easily. Melt the wax then strain it through butter muslin and it’s ready to be used again. For my melting pot, I’m keeping the small amount of remaining wax in the pot, covered, for future use. I scraped off what wax I could from the brush then put the brush in a baggie to store. Simply swishing the brush around in the next pot of cheese wax will melt off the remaining bits and I’ll be ready to use the brush again. (This is why you want a dedicated cheese wax pot and dedicated cheese wax brush.)

Now my farmhouse cheddar is ready to be aged! Some cheeses need to kept at very specific storage temperatures during aging. Farmhouse cheddar is all right as long as the environment doesn’t exceed 68-degrees F. My house in winter is fine for that. (Many cheeses need cooler temperatures. I’m contemplating using the cellar at the old farmhouse as a cheese cave. I think it would be perfect!)

See you in a month, my cheesy darling!

*Find out how to make Farmhouse Cheddar here.


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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on January 16, 2010  

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  1. 1-16
    2:10
    am

    I’m ready to go to bed but wanted to see if I was lucky enough to see your early morning post! Wow! I don’t intend to make cheese in my apt., but I love looking at yours. Great job! :hungry: :hungry: :hungry:

  2. 1-16
    4:37
    am

    Please don’t think I am a 13 year old boy, I’m not – but for the life of me reading this post and seeing “wax the cheese” just seems like a euphemism for “cut the cheese” and I have the giggles.

    Oh, I think I need more sleep. The cheese looks fabulous. I bet it is delicious.

  3. 1-16
    6:04
    am

    Looks terrific! Will you be making a different kind of cheese next, or perfecting your cheddar skills?

  4. 1-16
    6:45
    am

    That is simply beautiful!!! I got that giddy feeling FOR YOU! The same one I get every time I learn something new….making yogurt, hearing the lids ting when I can, making soap.

    The month is going to tick by now, isn’t it? :lol:

  5. 1-16
    7:18
    am

    I’m going to be trying a couple different hard cheeses next, and also more soft cheeses!

  6. 1-16
    8:18
    am

    Can’t wait until until tasting date. Is this a white cheddar? If so what is done to get a orange cheddar?

  7. 1-16
    8:26
    am

    Awesome! I’m so jealous! Some day…

  8. 1-16
    8:34
    am

    This is a white cheddar, yes. For the orange color of traditional cheddar, you add a few drops of cheese coloring.

  9. 1-16
    8:52
    am

    Something else I’ll be adding to my list to do! Thanks for the informative post! I’ll be waiting for the taste testing date!

  10. 1-16
    8:53
    am

    My only cheese making was using milk and lemon juice to form the curds. Then straining, weighing down the curds and eventually using them in an Indian Curry. This looks so professional. Can’t wait til you open it up and serve thin slices on crackers. Can we vie to be your company when you serve this? Please.

  11. 1-16
    9:01
    am

    Phyllis, I’ve got a recipe for lemon cheese I’m planning to try for fun!

  12. 1-16
    9:20
    am

    It dawned on me this morning having you around is like having our very own personal home extension person that guides you thru each step of a homemaking skill. We even get to ask you questions? How great is that!
    I have always wanted to make cheese …even bought the same book you have..but was afraid I would poison my family so haven’t tried. I think I am ready now.
    We are headed to the Ag Expo today in a neighboring town so I am going to go oooo and ahhh over some baby animals and hopefully it will jump start my husband on getting that coop built!
    Have a great day!

  13. 1-16
    9:28
    am

    Suzanne,

    This looks like so much fun! I can’t wait to get started!!! Thanks for sharing and giving me the courage to make cheese at home.

    Susan

  14. 1-16
    9:41
    am

    The cheeses we bought from shops used to be waxed, but now they are not. Whatever happened to cheese wax? Anyway, we used to decorate candles with red cheese wax.

  15. 1-16
    9:42
    am

    That is one beautiful hunk of cheese!!! :hungry: :hungry: :hungry:

  16. 1-16
    10:20
    am

    You almost killed me with that top pic. Sitting here, eyes barely open, desperately sucking down coffee…. and I thought it was CAKE. Ack! I’m trying to take off the last of my baby weight and you put the most beautiful red-iced cake in my face first thing in the morning. :lol:

  17. 1-16
    10:38
    am

    Beautiful!!!
    I really had no idea it was so easy to make cheese!!!
    So tell me, does goat milk have that really musky taste that I associate with goats?? Does the cheese have that muskiness?

    Deb

  18. 1-16
    10:50
    am

    Deb, goat milk isn’t musky, but it does have a distinctive tang (from mild to strong, depending on the goat). Some people love it, some people hate it! (I love it.) I used storebought cow’s milk to make this cheese, though. I don’t have any goat milk right now.

  19. 1-16
    10:56
    am

    Now we need your receipe for crackers – none of those store-bought pieces of cardboard for this good stuff!!

  20. 1-16
    11:03
    am

    so cool. I can’t wait for the tasting…

  21. 1-16
    11:56
    am

    This looks beautiful. I watched a segment on “Dirty Jobs” about a cheese company in a beautiful old barn in, I think, Vermont. I don’t know for sure, to say “Vermont Cheese” just seems so cliche. The whole cheese making process just seemed so peaceful and satisfying that that is what I want to do, own a cheese company. A small one, to go with my small wine company, small bakery, small greenhouse etc. etc. Think I have to clone myself. Better just stay in my kitchen.

  22. 1-16
    12:03
    pm

    Oh, have you ever heard of goat’s milk fudge? It used to be really popular around here, a little side business for the farmer’s wives. I imagine New York State over-regulation put a stop to it though because I haven’t seen any for sale in quite awhile. Goats milk is supposed to make it creamier.

  23. 1-16
    12:11
    pm

    Yes and I have a recipe for goat’s milk fudge, but alas, no goat milk! Maybe this summer! I’m hoping I can get Clover and Nutmeg pregnant before the winter is over.

  24. 1-16
    12:37
    pm

    Once we get a few more things done around the farm here I’m going to show my hubby your cheese press and then hopefully one day soon we’ll be making our own cheese. Thanks Suzanne for giving us the courage to try all these different things! :hungry2: (pitchfork!)

  25. 1-16
    1:30
    pm

    Suzanne,

    I had a recipe that used a similar setup with the canning jar lids in water, and they rusted during that short period and stained my stainless saucepan! How do you keep that from happening?

  26. 1-16
    1:38
    pm

    I don’t know if I will ever attempt to try this anytime soon but I love to see you do the process. I can’t wait till you can eat it and tell me how delicious it is, maybe that will motivate me. I really like goat cheese too with roasted garlic and french bread! :hungry: :hungry: :hungry: :hungry: :hungry: :hungry:

  27. 1-16
    1:38
    pm

    morningstar, do you mean in just the period of time in which you were melting wax the canning rings rusted??? I haven’t had that problem. I don’t have the rings in the water for very long, just long enough to do the job, then I dry them out until the next time I need them.

  28. 1-16
    1:44
    pm

    I’m really impressed, the cheese looks superb, I’m sure the taste will match too. :lol: My daughter is a champion cheese eater – I’d better not show her this link :moo:

  29. 1-16
    2:45
    pm

    You really are a very good teacher, Suzanne, and you put your “how-to” posts together so well, with beautiful photos and precise instructions. You’ve taken the mystery out of cheese making for us. I wonder how many of us will try it now :)
    Thank you!
    The sun is shining so brightly on the snow here in upstate NY today and the temps are in the low 50’s. What a lovely change! :sun:

  30. 1-16
    5:52
    pm

    Suzanne–and everyone else–what about store bought waxed cheese? I almost bought some to “put up” in our cold pantry (it is well below 68 in there–shoot, the rest of the house is right around 62 99% of the time, this time of year), but I was wondering about whether one could take a storebought waxed cheese, that had been in an open fridge compartment, and then store it at home in a cold cellar/pantry?

    I am so looking forward to getting my cow to milking…she just got bred the end of December, so I’m counting off the months til August/September…and keeping my fingers crossed for a bull calf for the freezer, and milk for the children (and cheese…and yogurt…and and and..)

    Rachel

  31. 1-16
    8:00
    pm

    I’m impressed! :shimmy:

  32. 1-16
    8:18
    pm

    Rachel, I don’t know the answer to your question, but maybe somebody else will come along who does! I’m just not sure what all is different when it comes to storebought cheese and the storage requirements. I would think it was okay. (It probably wasn’t refrigerated until it was taken to the store and was just kept wherever at its aging temperature.)

  33. 1-17
    10:12
    am

    It looks beautiful. I did this in our Y2K prep days, and all I’m saying is that I hope yours turns out better than mine. :?

  34. 1-17
    11:12
    am

    I will happily come over and test out that cheese with you, Suzanne. :)

  35. 1-17
    4:23
    pm

    Again, a wonderful demo. I am really lov’n your cheese info.
    Please keep it coming.

    The more cheesemakers, the better the world will be. :snoopy:

    http://www.tailgait.blogspot.com

  36. 2-12
    11:34
    am

    I have completed three wheels of cheese, following your directions,
    does you cheese seem to be leaking? I checked it today, two days after heavily waxing it – and there was a small amount of liquid on counter? Checked the cheese and couldn’t see where it might be coming from…..

  37. 2-12
    11:55
    am

    Laura, I haven’t had that problem! Mine hasn’t leaked. This is the first time I’ve tried this so I don’t have enough experience to know what to guess since you waxed it heavily (which would have been my first guess otherwise). If mine had leaked, I would probably put a bit more wax on (even if I already thought there was enough).

  38. 2-13
    7:20
    am

    Waxed over the edges some more last night, and got the Cheesemaking book at the Library, didn’t sound like a disaster if it leaked according to the book. Am making some more wheels tonight – will let them sit longer to maybe get a drier rind – maybe my house is too humid. I do know it is cold and snowed in – Central PA – 20 plus inches, so lots of time to make cheese.
    Love the site – it is the first thing I read in the morning… you make so many people happy, may you also be blessed,
    Laura

  39. 9-18
    11:06
    am

    Hey – I am ready to wax my 2 rounds of cheddar but one has developed 2 cracks on the edge – does that matter? Should I just wax and let some drip into the cracks? Or should I eat this one fresh? The other is fine. What caused this? Thanks, jan

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