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,
Cheese wax and vacuum packing
My assistant helping me cut cheesecloth for clothbound cheddar (above).
Tallow covered clothbound cheddar (below). Ready for the cave!
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.
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!
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.
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)
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 🙂
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.