Prepare Hard Cheese for Aging Video (Cheesemaking Part 8)

Options to cover cheese for aging; clothbound, vacuum seal, cream wax, beeswax and cheese wax,

After you make hard cheese, you have several options to prepare your cheese for aging. Choose the method that works best with your style of cheesemaking.

In this video post, I will demonstrate…

Bandage wrapping / cloth bound,

Cream wax,

Beeswax, and

Cheese wax and vacuum packing

BANDAGE RAPPED CHEDDAR

Young 4 month old Clothbound cheddar made with cheesecloth and lard.cut cheesecloth for cloth bound cheddar

My assistant helping me cut cheesecloth for clothbound cheddar (above).

Tallow covered clothbound cheddar (below). Ready for the cave!

Clothbound cheddar ready for aging.

BANDAGE WRAPPING / CLOTHBOUND

Simple and excellent method! Bandage wrapping is my favorite way to protect hard cheese while aging. All you need is lard (liquid pig fat), tallow (liquid bovine fat) or butter and fabric!

You can bandage wrap any cheeses that has salted curds, such as Cheddar and Jack. Bandage wrapping allows the cheese to breathe! Traditionally, cheese was never waxed with paraffin (cheese wax), painted with cream or trapped in plastic.

STEP ONE FOR CLOTHBOUND CHEESE:

Slowly, melt and liquefy fat. You can use tallow, lard or butter.

I store my fat in the freezer and take it out the night before I want to use it. Then I put that whole quart jar of solid fat in a pot of water with a fabric napkin underneath.  Put the heat on LOW… let it warm until it’s completely liquified, it takes a while, don’t watch the pot.

Take a look at my post on how to render your own lard and tallow if you don’t already have a stash of this liquid gold in your freezer. Click HERE to view.

A method to liquify solid fat for bandage rapping cheese

STEP TWO FOR CLOTHBOUND CHEESE:

Cut up four squares from a tight woven cheesecloth. The sides needs to hang halfway down the side of the cheese (see video in this post for questions). Everyone’s mold is different, but my size is about a 10” x 10” square.

STEP THREE FOR CLOTHBOUND CHEESE:

Make sure there’s no mold that’s accumulated on the outside of your cheese. It’ll probably a white color. If there is, gently wipe off the mold with a 3% salt solution of water (1/2 gallon), a 2 Tbs vinegar and salt (1/2 cup), I keep this mixture in my cheese cave and use it to wipe cheese.  Also, make sure that your cheese has air dried for 7-10 days and the cheese surface is completely dry.

Using your hands, dip them in the melted fat (make sure it’s not too hot, it should just be warm not hot) and smear the fat all over the cheese.

STEP FOUR FOR CLOTHBOUND CHEESE:

Take one of your cheesecloth squares and put it in the fat, than squeeze out the extra liquid from the cloth. Put that square on top of your cheese and press it down evenly on all sides.

Then flip the cheese over and do the same thing to the other side. Than flip over again and do another and flip and another. You want two layers of cheese cloth.

Take a look at the video in this post to see what this looks like, if you have questions.

STEP FIVE FOR CLOTHBOUND CHEESE: 

At about one month, you’ll start to see mold growth on the outside of the bandage wrap, this is good! You can gently brush to distribute the mold. You can use a nail brush or soft bristled boar or horsehair brush. Brushing will not eliminate the mold growth, but it slows it down and spreads it out evenly.

When brushing your bandage, you want to brush away from the cheese. Do not brush in a circular motion. You’re trying to move the mold off the cheese and spread the mold out to prevent the mold from making big patches.

There’s no rule for when to brush cheeses. I try to brush my wheels about once every other week.

Make sure to throughly sanitize your brushes before and after use with a bit of bleach and water then throughly rinse the bleach off. If I’m short on time, I put my brushes in the dishwasher top rack.

Do not use your cheese brushes for anything else except cheese!

When your cheese is done aging, remove the bandage and discard it. If the outside of your cheese has quite a bit of mold, you can wipe it off with that 3% brine solution mentioned above. Slice cheese and enjoy!

Cream wax for covering cheeses

cream wax for aging cheese

Cheese drying after being cream waxed. They're labeled and ready for the cave.

CREAM WAX

Air dry your cheese for 7-10 days before applying cream wax. Apply two coats of cheese wax to the dry rind. I bought my cream wax from Glengarry Cheesemaking.

Using your fingers coat the top and sides. Let it dry completely. It’ll take a while to dry. Then turn over and coat the other side. Repeat.

The glue cream will dry clear.

Most cream wax comes with a mold inhibitor, so you don’t have to worry about mold growth messing up your cheese or have to brush the mold off. The only aging instructions is to flip your cheese 🙂 They say the rind is edible… but I wouldn’t eat it. Cut it off.

Also, cream wax is a semi-breathable surface, so your cheese can breathe better than in cheese wax, beeswax or plastic vacuum pack.

Dill gouda covered in cheese wax

Covering monterey jack with cheese wax

CHEESE WAX (PARAFFIN WAX)

You need to put two coats of wax on your cheese. Make sure your cheese has air-dried in a 50-55 degree environment for 7-10 days before covering.

Melt a block of cheese paraffin wax on LOW in a small crock pot. This will be its permeant location.Wax is flammable, so never leave it unattended. Once the wax is completely melted, dip half of your cheese in the wax and then let it dry wax side up on the counter.

Put a label on your cheese immediately after the first wax coat and it’ll stick to the hot wax, then when you re-dip the label will be attached well. On the label you want to write 1.) The Cheese Type  2.) Date made  3.) How long it ages  4.) Date it’s ready

Once dry, pick up the wax side and dip the other side in the wax. Set it on the counter wet side up to dry for a few minutes. Then repeat, but this time rotate the cheese 90 degrees so you’re dipping the opposite way. If there are any air holes that formed, use a brush to fill them with more wax. Mold will form in any holes, that’s bad. Make sure there are no holes.

After cheese is ready to eat, remove the wax. Do not eat cheese wax, it’s paraffin. You can wash the wax and reuse it if you’d like.

Author’s Rant, PLEASE NOTE: Cheese can’t breathe in cheese wax. Cheese wax is an edible grade of paraffin, which is an industrial waste by-product. Also, I’ve had many problems when I use cheese wax. If your cheese didn’t dry properly before you waxed it, you can get pockets of whey that create an air bubble. If the wax sticks to anything in your cave, it’ll crack and peel off. If you’ don’t re-wax immediately, you’ll get mold growth between your wax and cheese. Well, you’ll probably get mold growth between the wax and cheese anyways… it’s pretty frustrating. Cheese wax is my least favorite way to protect cheese while aging.

Pictured below: Beeswax (left) and cheese paraffin wax (right)

Beeswax on the left and paraffin cheese wax on the right

NATURAL BEESWAX

Directions for the application of beeswax are the exact same as for paraffin cheese wax. See above for directions.

You’ll find the same issues with beeswax as paraffin cheese wax. It cracks easily, it get’s mold between the wax and cheese and the cheese can’t breathe.

However, if you insist on waxing your cheese… I would recommend beeswax over paraffin cheese wax… because it’s natural 🙂

Gouda vacuum packed

VACUUM PACKING CHEESE

Unless you’re buying farmstead artesian cheese, you’re probably buying cheese that’s been aged in vacuum packaging. It’s not ideal, for several reasons… the cheese can’t breathe, it’s plastic so it has BPA and all the other nasty’s that are in plastic.

However, vacuum packing is easy, fast and you get a high yield of finished cheese. If I don’t have time to bandage wrap, I either cream wax or vacuum pack my cheese.

Directions: Make sure your cheese has dried 7-10 days in your aging environment. Then seal per the directions for your vacuum sealer. I have this FoodSaver Vacuum Food Sealer.

What’s great about vacuum packing, is that you don’t usually have any mold growth problems between the cheese and plastic. You retain all the moisture in the cheese. The cheese will have a texture similar to what you’ll find in the store. You don’t have to cut off any rind, it’s all edible. When aging, all you have to do is flip the cheese. No rubbing or brushing! Easy peasy.

Pick the method that works best for you… but be sure to try bandage wrapping because it’s AWESOME and very traditional to cheesemaking.

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Comments

  1. Rashel,
    How big are your wine coolers that you use as aging caves? And how many pounds of cheese can you age at one time?

  2. Thanks so much for this post. I couldn’t find anything else on clothbinding cheese. I am preparing to try my first aged cheese and I wanted to make edam. Is that ok for clothbinding? Thanks again!

  3. Rashel, have you made Parmesan? If so can you bandage wrap it too? It looks like everyone uses wax and I’m wondering how the bandage wrap would change the taste of the final product after ageing. I haven’t made any yet but since I’m using your method for other cheeses I thought I would ask before I do.

    BTW GREAT videos.

  4. Thanks for all your great videos. Is it okay to use bacon grease for bandaging a cheese?

    • Yes, bacon grease is pretty much lard, use it! 🙂 Good idea. I’d give a nice flavor, especially if your bacon was smoked and cured.

  5. Hi.
    I’m new to cheese making but am addicted to it. I’ve watched most of your videos and have found them extremely helpful :-).
    My husband is a fantastic cook and often makes Indian food, in which he uses our home made Paneer. I want to ask if you know the best way of storing Paneer? I have a vacuum sealer and it works quite well with Paneer. Of course most cheese should be completely dry before vacuum sealing, however Paneer goes hard if it’s left to dry out. Some people say Paneer should be boxed with water or brine and others say it should be simply kept in an air tight container. I’m not sure what the best method is for the longest shelf life, and I assume that whatever method used it should always be kept in the fridge(?).
    Hoping you can help me 🙂

    Amanda

  6. You Rock!

  7. Do you dry your cheese in your cheesecave to keep it at temperature??? That’s the only thing I’m not sure of.
    Thank you!!! MW

  8. chris may says:

    how do you decide which method to use? I like the idea of plain natural rinds on all my cheeses, but seem to wind up with mold most of the time. why is that, anyhow? and could I natural rind everything or is there a reason you must use other ways? thanks for this info., this site is great.

    • Natural rinds are for any cheese that is salted in a brine. Well… at least in all the recipes I’ve read 🙂 Also, depending on the recipe you need to wash (rub) the cheese cheese with salt water twice a week and flip it. This is crucial step for natural rinds cheese. Getting mold on the outside of the cheese isn’t a problem, but some molds you don’t want and thats why you must wash the natural rind cheeses.

      Natural rind cheeses loose a lot of liquid through there rind, so the cheeses are drier. Hope that helps.

  9. Allyson says:

    Rashel, do you vacuum pack all your gouda since it is not salted or is it fine since it is brined? Just trying to decide to vacuum or bandage my gouda. Thank you.

    • I leave a natural rind on my gouda after the salt brine. You’ll get great results with a natural rind. I really dislike vacuum pack because my cheese does not always turn out, it’s like 50/50. However, if you bandage rap or using natural rinds, you’ll have much better luck.

  10. Rashel,

    I used cheese wax for my first two cheeses, and have noticed a dark spot under the wax in one (a Gouda-style) and fine cracks along the edge of another (a Derby-style). If the discoloration grows I figure I’d cut through the wax and gouge out the bad part and rewax the hole, and for the Derby I’d just monitor the situation. What do you think? Any advise would be greatly appreciated!

    Rob

    P.S. Going to take your advice and bandage-wrap the next one!

    • Rob, the cheese is still good… just cut out the extra mold growth after it’s aged/ready and give it to your animals 🙂 If the wax cracks during aging… you want to seal it off, don’t leave a crack… you can either rewax it or just wax the crack.

  11. I am writing a book set in the 1800s and my heroine makes cheese. However she does not (yet) have a cave or cool place to age her cheese. What happens if she tries to age it in a warm (sometimes hot) and dry room?
    Also, what is the worst thing that can happen to cheese for a small-time cheese maker? So appreciate any help you can offer.

    • Rashel Harris says:

      You’ll have to be realistic… she probably just ate fresh cheeses that have a shelf life of about a week.

      Many people at that time had larders… which were cool places 50-60 degrees… usually in the ground… a root cellar… to store cabbage, onions, garlic, apples etc… hard aged cheese would do well in the same conditions that would keep those veggies.

What are you thoughts?