Storing Your Cheese For Aging

By on 13/04/2011

When you get into making cheese, there quickly comes a point when you have to figure out just where you’re going to age and store all this fabulous cheese you’re making.

Initially when you first start out, and you are focusing on soft cheeses such as Feta, Haloumi and Ricotta, it’s not such a problem because these can be stored in brine, oil or vacuum packed and stored in a standard fridge. But when you get into the harder cheeses and the mold aged cheeses you will need something that provides the right conditions for storing your cheeses while they mature.

So what are those conditions? And why can’t you just use the kitchen fridge?

The main conditions you need to control while aging your cheeses is temperature and humidty. Each cheese you make has specific requirements for both of these conditions and if you want to end up with a cheese that closely resembles the type you are attempting to make, you need to meet these requirements where possible.

Unfortunately, the kitchen fridge doesn’t really allow for this. The temperatures they run at are normally too low and the humidty is all wrong. The other issue you have is the aromas and bacterias that are inherent in the standard family kitchen fridge. These can play havoc with your lovely cheeses and you really don’t want to start mixing them if you want to avoid contamination.

So what options are there? As you are probably aware, the tradition is to store and age cheese in cheese caves. A cheese cave is an area that is separated for cheese production and will either be a cellar type room or literally a cave dug into the land. Most home cheesemakers can’t manage the latter but many have cellars or cools stores that are being used for cheese making.  For the rest of us, we have to fashion something up to do the job. When I first started cheesemaking I used to put my cheese in containers in the South facing bathroom at the far end of the house, with buckets of water for humidity. It was a task keeping it all sterile and at the right humidity and if the temperatures rose with the weather, I couldn’t really do anything to control it so it was a hit and miss operation at best.

Once I realised that I was keen to stick to my new found cheesemaking hobby I started seriously thinking about what else I could do. I read all over the internet and learned that a lot of people take old fridges and make them into caves using various tools and implements to control the humidity, but it all seemed like a lot of work (and a bit of electrical knowledge) to get it right. Then I read about using Wine Fridges as cheese caves. I did a bit more research and after reading a number of first hand accounts of how it was working out I decided that was the plan I would follow.

Hubby obviously decided that the cheesemaking wasn’t an overnight whim too because when I suggested he check out some prices for me, he did just that, but went a step further and bought me one home!

This picture is from when I first got the fridge plugged in and started populating it. I was so excited to be migrating these lovelies from the bathroom to their new home.

The unit I got has two temperature zones which makes it perfect for aging cheeses like Camembert, which have different temperature requirements for different stages of the aging. It also has wooden, pull out shelving which was one of my preferences.

Since I got this fridge my cheese making has been 100% more successful as the conditions are more suitable and I’m not constantly battling molds, condensation or lack of humidty.  It is now full to bursting with cheeses busy maturing to utter deliciousness.

I wouldn’t say this option is the cheapest option but it has been well worth the investment. The fridge sits in the corner of the dining room and is a bit of talking point with visitors often stopping to take a look to see what’s in there lately. And if they are really lucky, sometimes I even drag a block out to cut up and share.

14 Comments

  1. Louise

    24/06/2011 at 4:39 am

    My husband got a wine fridge from his company for 15 years of service and we couldn’t be happier. It is also a dual temperature fridge but I don’t see much of a difference from top to bottom. It’s been working VERY well for aging our cheeses.
    We saw one at the Pawn shop and nearly bought it, I wish we had, it was cheap, $50US. So search the thrift shops, Salvation Army and pawn shops as well as Craigs list, I’m sure if you can be patient a cheap one will pop up somewhere. I want another one already.
    I use the bottom for blooming the cheese and then the top for storage.

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  5. Pohutukawa

    11/08/2012 at 3:38 pm

    Hi, what if you don’t have a wine fridge? what are the other options? What do other people do? this seems the hardest part of the cheesemaking process? please let me know!

    • curdnerd

      23/08/2012 at 11:54 am

      Creating the right environment for aging is certainly one of the harder parts of cheese making. There are a number of options including converting an old fridge (usually turned off) and using humidifiers etc to create the right conditions, using containers in a certain part of the house or garage, and again possible employing the use of supporting equipment, or, as you mentioned, using a wine fridge.

      I personally only played with using containers in a cooler part of the house, and adding moisture, and I have to say it wasn’t terribly successful. It wasn’t until I got the wine fridge that I was able to control my environment to a better degree. I haven’t spend any time converting old fridges etc so I wouldn’t be the best person to help you there.

      Perhaps another Curd-Nerd has some help to offer???

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  7. David

    28/10/2012 at 2:53 am

    Hi,

    Does the wine fridge have a humidity regulator? I ddin’t see that addressed. I’m willing to buy one but

    I want to get into the hard aged cheeses, thanks

    • curdnerd

      17/11/2012 at 1:51 pm

      Hi David

      Thanks for your question.

      The wine fridge I use does not have a humidity regulator, but there may be fridges out there that do.

  8. Dave

    23/04/2013 at 6:09 am

    Hi, What is the make and model of the wine fridge in this picture? Also, could we just buy a fridge without a freezer and use and external thermostat?

    • Curd-Nerd

      21/05/2013 at 11:17 am

      This is a Delonghi Wine fridge. And yes, you can use a fridge without the freezer compartment, and use external thermostats. You’ll also need to figure a way to provide additional humidity as required. Check out the Easy To Create Aging Environments post to see how you can do this.

  9. Janis

    02/06/2013 at 4:30 am

    Are the two sections of the wine fridge separate so you can age mold cheeses as well as regular cheese? Do you wax and bag seal your cheese?

    • Curd-Nerd

      17/06/2013 at 7:33 pm

      Hi Janis

      Yes, the two sections have separate temperature settings so I can age and store cheeses. I use a mixture of wax, vacuum seal and natural rind, depending on the cheese and aging process I am trying out.

  10. Ian Ridsdale

    29/01/2014 at 8:50 am

    I am in the process of converting a regular fridge. A regular fridge will not run warm enough to age cheese, temps should be about 11 degrees C), but for $35-$45 you can buy a temperature controller, with a probe that sits inside the fridge.
    Apparently this set-up is very popular with home brewers. My controller is still in the post, so I have not tested it yet, but I can say that the warmest my fridge will run at currently is around 7 degrees C. Much too cold.

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