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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Waxing Cheddar Cheese - Finally!!

It may not be standard practice to blog about an experimental goof-up when you first start blogging....but I did. That is just part of life. Mistakes and experiments that flop are all part of learning and least it is for us. 

So, with that said, we made cheddar cheese again. And  this time we used two cheese presses like we had in the past.  

We start off by putting the curd in the press for 20 minutes at 15 pounds pressure. We tighten the press down until it feels right.

After 20 minutes, take out the cheese, turn it over and press again for 20 minutes at 30 lbs. pressure.

At this point I pour out the whey that has been released during the first press. There will be more during the next few presses, but this is most of it and it can get messy.

After the cheese has been pressed twice, remove it from the press again and put on a new cheese cloth. Return it to the press for 2 hours at 30 lbs. pressure.

Frank noticed how I had tightened down the cheese press a while back and gave me some advice. At first, when I was trying to figure everything out, I wasn't paying attention to the alignment of the follower (the wooden or metal disc used to press down on the cheese) and the large screw handle used to push down on it. Several times I had it pretty crooked which wasn't working very well and eating away some of the wood around the hole in the wooden follower shown above. So, if you use these types of presses, make sure you have them aligned correctly or you may cause some damage. 

After the 2 hour press, remove the cheese, put on another new cheese cloth and press again for 24 hours at 40 lbs. of pressure.

At the end of 24 hours, remove the cheese and set it out to dry. This will take three to four days depending upon the humidity and temperature of your house.
Here are the two wheels fresh from the press.


Day 1 - darker rind beginning to form

Day 2
The rind is quite a bit darker, and feels drier to the touch.

There is not much cabinet space left to work with - 2 wheels drying and 2 more in the presses.

Day 3 was busy and went by without any pictures. 

On day 4 for the first batch of cheese and day 3 for the second batch, I decided it was time to wax all of them.

 Some of the cheese we made last year is a little dry, others have a good texture. So I am going to experiment, yet again, and see how these compare when they are aged.

This is my cheese wax pot. We had a small sauce pan that had been cooked dry and was discolored so I chose it to use for the cheese pot. Whatever pan you choose to use for wax needs to be dedicated to only wax because it is very hard to clean up. The wax is heated in a double boiler because it can explode if exposed to direct high heat. You have to be careful not to get water in the wax because it may pop similar to water in hot cooking oil.  
One of the great things about cheese wax it that it can be reused. When it is taken off of the cheese, wash it with warm water, dry it carefully then store it in the cheese pot. I need more wax for these four wheels, so I cut another piece off of the five
 pound block I bought and add it to the pot. I buy the wax in bulk, and keep some extra on hand just in case I can no longer acquire any more.
The first year I made cheddar, I had some mold grow inside the wax as it aged that gave it a bitter after taste. I read everything I could find about taste and made changes in the ripening time which will reduce the acidity. I also read that keeping the wax at 220 degrees will help kill any mold spore that may be on the cheese. And the third thing I read said to brush on a layer of vinegar to kill any bacteria that may be on the surface of the cheese from handling or sitting out to dry. So now I do all three of these things each time I make cheese. 

I label and date the cheese when it is waxed. If there is anything notable about a particular batch of cheese I put that on the label.  The ACV stands for apple cider vinegar.

For these two batches, the 'more dry' and 'less dry' comments will help me remember my experiment to see which one has the more desirable moisture content.
There are two methods of waxing - dipping and brushing. I choose to brush it on because it uses a smaller cheese pot and much less wax.  The brush I use is made for waxing cheese. The bristles will stand up under the high heat of the wax.
I coat a flat side first, then 'paint' around the edge, finishing up with the other side. I try not to make a mess and waste any wax, but as you can see it is drippy, so I have a piece of waxed paper on the cabinet.

Starting in the top, right corner and going clockwise: first wheel - no wax; second wheel - one layer of wax; third wheel - two layers of wax; and fourth wheel - three layers of wax and ready to have a label attached. Some books recommend five or six layers of wax, but I find three works just fine.

I 'paint' the label on after I have completed the three layers. I cover it with just enough for it to stick because I will peel it off when I wash the wax for reusing.

There. Four more wheels that we can January! 

While I was waxing these four wheels of cheese and writing this post, I thought it would be interesting to show one of last year's wheels. I was surprised to see that the next one ready to eat was waxed one year ago today!

I try to take the wax off in just a few pieces. It makes it easier to wash.

After the first piece is off it is pretty easy to remove the rest.

Peel off the label.....

This wheel tastes like sharp cheddar! Yea! It is a little drier than I would prefer, but this is one wheel that is a year later.

Making cheddar cheese definitely goes along with one of Frank's old sayings - Postpone gratification for long term gains. We have lived by that motto for years and it has always served us well.

Until next time - Fern


  1. Fern, your cheeses are gorgeous!

    One thing I've had trouble with, is getting the wax clean after I remove it from my cheese. It never seems to come off cleanly and I never seem to be able to wash it clean. Even when I think I've got it, it ends up not smelling so good. I need to look into this because cheese wax is expensive and I'd rather not have to buy so much if I can help it.

  2. Leigh,

    You can use soap and water on the wax. That might help with the smell. I use warm water which softens the wax a little. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the wax is soft or if there is still some oil left on it from the cheese.

    What kind of cheese do you make? I always like to see how someone else does things.


  3. This is very interesting! My girlfriend and I are aging our first two wheels of cheddar, and we have mold growing inside. We used uncolored food-quality parafin wax, so we can see some inside. After letting them dry for 3 days, we brushed the wheels with white vinegar and tried to get the wax temperatures high enough. Nevertheless, one of the wheels definitely has mold.
    I have three questions:
    - Will the mold completely ruin the whole wheels?
    - Is there anything we can do to remedy the situation? They're only about a month old, now.
    - Recognizing that you don't know exactly what we did, do you have any ideas for what we may have done wrong? I actually made a video of our process. If you want to see what we did, you can youtube "the cheddar endeavor."


    1. Isaac,

      Thank you for the interest. I always like to find other people that are trying to make cheese because I always have questions and want to compare notes.

      I am not sure what kind of mold you have or if it will ruin the wheel. We have had a kind of red looking mold before and I think that is what caused the bitter after taste we have had with some of our cheese. It was still edible, just not very good.

      I have read (but not tried) that if a mold develops, you can take the wax off, wipe the wheel down with vinegar and wax the wheel again. I have never used parafin wax, so I can't comment on how it may affect the cheese. When we had the problem with the mold, my research indicated I needed to keep the wax at a much higher temperature than I had been. Since I made that change, I haven't had the mold problem we originally had.

      Your video shows many differences in the way you made your cheese and how I make mine, so I don't think I would be able to figure out what you could have done differently. But keep trying and best of luck with your cheese making endeavors. It is a great learning experience.


  4. Two questions:

    1] How long does waxed cheddar cheese keep?

    2] Can I buy a commercial packaged block of cheddar cheese and then wax it (for a longer shelf life)?

    1. The only thing I have read on aging cheddar is the longer you age it the sharper the flavor. The year old wheel we opened is the oldest we have had so far.

      I watched a YouTube a couple of years ago about waxing mild cheddar that was purchased at the store on sale. It would increase the shelf life if you have a cool, humid place to age it.

      Good luck, Fern

  5. thanks for explaining how to re-use the wax! I have a fridge full of waxed cheeses ready to eat soon and it will be good to save the wax.