Last time, I left you with this wheel of cheese.
After it has dried out for 3-5 days, it is ready to be waxed. Here is what you will need:
Waxing the Cheese
A small/medium pan filled 3/4 full of water
Container – or containers – to hold the wax
Optional spoon/knife to assist with stirring the wax
First, you will need some cheese wax. I purchase my cheese wax from cheesemaking.com. There is red wax, white (they call it yellow) wax, and black wax. I used to only use red wax. However, when I was making the cheese for our wedding, I decided I wanted to use the white wax, because it seemed more wedding-ish! For the sake of taking pictures, I used the red wax, because it shows up better!
The purpose of the wax is to keep mold out of the cheese, and keep the moisture in as the cheese ages. The most important rule of waxing to remember is to make sure the wax completely covers the cheese!! If there is even one pinhole that is not covered, mold can get in. With cheeses that age a long time, this is super important!
I also use somewhat of a double boiler method to melt the wax. You don’t want to put wax in a pot directly on a flame – it needs to be protected. I have an old skillet that I fill with water, and then put the wax in this -
I believe it actually is an old hubcap … just something we had lying around the garage! BTW, the garage is a great place to look for odds and ends you will need for cheese making! I think my entire cheese press was made from parts we found in the garage!
I have heard of people who keep their cheese wax in an old crock pot, and just heat up the crock pot when they want to use the wax. I don’t have an old crock pot – I use all of mine! But, I think this would be a great method to repurpose a crock pot.
Here is the skillet full of water, and the cheese wax melting in the hubcap:
You are supposed to let the wax get to 210 degrees F. You want to make sure it is close to boiling and that any mold that might be present is boiled away. However, this is where I bend the rules a little. I live at 9000 feet elevation, and my boiling point is closer to 200 degrees. I can’t get anything to 210! After the wax melts, I let it come as close to a boil as possible.
DISCLAIMER: You are going to be working with hot hot wax! Please be careful to not burn yourself! Trust me, hot wax is really hot!
While I am waiting for the wax to melt, I set up my work area. I cover the area with tin foil. I have a 9×9 aluminum pan that I use to coat the cheese. You can use whatever container you want – I found this as a cheap and easy method, as this container is going to be covered in wax for the rest of its life! There is a cup filled with water to add to the skillet if the water level gets low, a cheese brush, and a spoon I use to stir the wax.
Ready, set, go!
When you are satisfied your wax is hot enough, I pour it into the square container.
I like to wax the sides of the cheese first.
Let it dry. I have tried putting it down on the aluminum foil to dry, but this is what ends of happening:
It sticks to the aluminum foil, and the wax comes off the cheese. Because of this, I usually end up holding the cheese as it dries. (It only takes a few minutes).
Now, it is time to wax either the top or the bottom of the cheese. There are a couple methods. You can submerge the cheese in the wax -
You have to act quick though, because the wax will harden quickly! I used a spoon to get it back out of the wax.
Then I kind of flip it over using my hand on the non-waxed side to support it and lift it out of the wax.
Then I just hold it again till that side dries.
I think my preferred method is using the cheese brush. You will need a brush with bristles that will not melt in hot wax! I use a natural boar bristle brush.
Whenever you finish waxing a side, you will need to pour the wax back in the container in your double boiler, so it stays nice and hot. It does not take long at all for the wax to even slightly thicken, which of course makes it difficult to get on the cheese!
Pour pour pour. Sometimes I put the aluminum square container directly on the boiling water to get the built-up wax off of that container.
While balancing the cheese in my other hand of course!
The cheese needs 2 coats of wax, so we repeat this process.
It can be rather messy. I always try to clean up the wax spots on the stove as soon as possible. When they are not completely set, they clean up nicely with just a dish scrubber.
When the wax sets slightly, it is still moldable, so I just press it around the cheese, and make sure all holes are covered! Let it set completely – a few hours – and then it is ready for the cheese cave where it will age until we are ready to eat it!
In my next cheese making post, I will go over how to set up a cheese cave. Don’t worry – its easy!
Thank you to my wonderful husband for all the pictures in this post! It is kind of hard to wax and take pictures!