Preserving Methods | Waxing Cheese

By on 08/06/2011

Waxing CheeseWax on, Wax off, Wax on, Wax off – so says Mr Miyagi

Ok, so perhaps that’s a bad play on words but it’s what comes to mind EVERY time I’m waxing my cheeses.

Anyway, let’s move on from that terrible start and talk about one of the methods of preserving your aging cheeses – waxing.

A lot of people shy away from waxing their cheese because the whole process can seem a little technical and messy. But once you give it a go a few times it becomes a lot easier and the benefits start to outweigh the effort.

Cheese Wax

Cheese Wax is a speciality wax used for preserving cheese. Unlike 100% paraffin based wax it remain soft and pliable even when set and can easily be peeled away from the cheese without the wax cracking or crumbling in brittle pieces.

It is coloured with food grade colouring and commonly comes in Red, Yellow and Black. The colour doesn’t matter but a lot of people prefer the yellow as it obviously has less colouring in it.

Benefits Of Waxing Cheese

As I mentioned, waxing your cheese preserves it while it is aging. It prevents mold from growing on the surfaces and it also helps to retain the moisture in the cheese. Once you have waxed your cheese there won’t be any mold washing or worrying about anything other than turning the cheese regularly, keeping it in the right conditions and eating it when it is ready.

Waxing is best suited to hard, drier cheeses. Attempting to wax a softer, moist cheese can end in disaster so don’t assume ALL cheeses can be waxed.

Step By Step – How To Wax Cheese

Before you start, make sure your cheese has been chilled if it has not come straight from the fridge. This will help the wax stick and set.

I use the direct heat method for melting wax but if you are nervous about melting your wax on a direct heat you can use the double boiler method (one pot inside of another pot with boiling water). It is definitely safer because you remove the risk of the wax or vapors igniting but it can be difficult to get the wax up to temperature this way and often molds will grow under the wax shell. Do what feels most comfortable for you. If you opt for the direct heat method please exercise caution, do not overheat the wax, stay alert and NEVER leave your wax unattended. Flash fires do happen.

Use old pots or buy cheap pots that can be kept for use for waxing only.

Heat the wax to approximately 120 degrees celcius. You need it hot enough to kill any bacteria on the cheese surface but not so hot it explodes.

Turn the heat off as soon as the wax has reached temperature. This can often be spotted by the wax going quite clear.

Use a natural bristle brush (synthetic will frizzle up) and starting on one side, brush the wax onto the cheese evenly until the cheese is completely covered. You will need to do 2 or 3 coats (letting each layer harden between coats) to make sure all parts of the cheese is sealed and no air holes are left. Be generous with your painting.

Or

Get pots that are large enough in size to let you dip your cheese right into and again, can be used only for cheese waxing.

Very carefully (wearing sanitised rubber gloves) dip your cheese into the wax, top then bottom surface, then roll the cheese edge through the wax half way, let it set then roll the other edge through half way. Again, 2 or 3 coats will make sure all of the cheese is sealed and no air is available for mold growth and I normally hold my cheese under for 4-5 seconds so the mold spores are properly killed off.

Once you have coated the cheese, write or print a label out with the cheese type and the make date on it and, using the wax, stick the label onto the cheese. The paper will stick to wet wax and if you paint another sealing layer over the label it will allow you to identify what the cheese is without any problems later on.

Extra Waxing Tips

If you have a large block of cheese and don’t think you’ll eat the whole thing in a week, cut your block up into wedges before waxing so you have sizes that you can enjoy fresh and don’t end up throwing away a larger block when it goes off.

Lay down wax paper or tin foil when waxing. Wax makes a heck of a mess and can be difficult to get off surfaces.

Take precautions to keep the hot wax off your skin. Wax holds its temperature when it sticks to something and will make a nasty burn if it is in contact with your skin.

Dipping the cheese definitely makes for a more aesthetically pleasing cheese but it does take more wax to do it since you need enough to submerge the cheese half way down.

Make sure your cheese is sufficiently dry before waxing. It should have a slightly hardened rind and be a darker yellow than when it was first pressed. It should be dry to the touch.

Reusing Cheese Wax

When you are ready to eat your cheese, remove the wax and rinse it off. Then melt it down and strain through a piece of fine cheese cloth to remove any hangers on. As long as it is brought up to the right heat next time any nasties will be killed and the wax will be fine for reuse.

In future posts I will talk about other methods of preserving and protecting your cheese including bandaging, oiling and vacuum packing.

If you have any thoughts or questions about cheese waxing, post in comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

 

25 Comments

  1. Jo

    15/06/2011 at 10:14 am

    Hi I am new to the cheese making game and was just wondering, When do yo apply the wax to a hard cheese such as Edam? Is there a certain time frame or just when the cheese is dry?
    Thanks, great website by the way.

    • curdnerd

      15/06/2011 at 7:21 pm

      Hi Jo

      For cheeses like Edam and Colby, I normally leave them to air dry for about a week until the surface is completely dry and has gone a darker yellow than when it was first pressed. It should then be ready to wax.

      Thanks for the feedback about the site! Appreciate you dropping by.

  2. gill

    29/07/2011 at 4:20 pm

    Hi, do you know if there is any reason why I can’t wrap cheese in Glad Wrap and then seal it in a plastic bag to age it, rather than wax it? Thanks!

    • curdnerd

      02/08/2011 at 9:20 pm

      Hi. Thank you for your question. I wouldn’t recommend trying to age your cheese in any kind of plastic wrap unless it is a vacuum sealed bag. Cling film/Glad Wrap tends to be a perfect medium for letting moisture out and air in, regardless of how carefully you try to seal it. This will likely lead to a hard cheese with mold on it. If you don’t want to muck about with Wax I would keep an eye out for a vacuum seal unit on sale and go that way instead. They’re also really handy for other food storage as well so you can’t go too wrong.

      • alim

        22/08/2012 at 11:08 pm

        What would be the properties of an ideal vacuum sealer bag that would be suitable for ageing cheese? I’m starting out and I really don’t want the hassle and mess of wax. I can pick up a used vac sealer for pretty cheap, and so I’m looking for suitable bags. I did find these drybagsteak.com do you think they would be good?

  3. Ed Plummer

    09/05/2012 at 4:04 am

    Hi:
    I am a new Cheese maker and want to know more about vacuum packing. It is so simple, but can it age an mature properly? I normally do 2 pound wheels and mostly Cheddar type cheeses.

    Thanks so much…
    Ed

    Also, it is nice if you could put degrees F in addition to degrees C.

    • curdnerd

      15/06/2012 at 2:36 pm

      Hi Ed

      Thanks for your comment, and your suggestion about the temperatures. I will definitely keep that in mind for future recipes.

      While vacuum packing is handy for storing your cheeses, it will stall the aging process as the packaging is impermeable. A cheese needs to have air/gas exchange to allow for the aging process and the plastic sealing stops this.

      You’ve just reminded me that I has a post planned for this very subject, so thank you : )

  4. Pingback: How To Label Waxed Cheese | Curd-Nerd

  5. Pingback: Preserving Methods | Vacuum Sealing | Curd-Nerd

  6. Kathy Oakley

    08/07/2012 at 11:55 am

    Where do you purchase cheese wax at any grocery store ?

    • curdnerd

      09/08/2012 at 5:36 pm

      Hi Kathy

      You will need to find a local store that stocks cheese making supplies, or you can go online and purchase Cheese Wax from either Amazon or specialist cheese making suppliers. Check my resources page for the links to the Amazon stocks, or type in cheese making supplies and you should get options near you.

      • alim

        22/08/2012 at 11:06 pm

        Also eBay has cheese wax and even full beginner cheese-making kits.

  7. Shelly

    13/10/2012 at 10:56 am

    While I like the concept of cheese wax, I would rather not use petroleum based wax. Can I use beeswax or perhaps a oil/beeswax mix (to make it more pliable) to coat my cheese?

    • curdnerd

      23/10/2012 at 11:50 am

      Hi Shelly

      You can certainly use beeswax if you prefer, but you will need to consider a few things with it including the melting temperature, the pliability as you’ve mentioned (it tends to be more brittle) and also make sure that at heating it is warm enough to kill off any unwanted bacteria.

      I haven’t personally used beeswax but if you do give it a go, it would be great if you would share your results with us, so other Curd-Nerds can see if it might also work for them. Let me know at rachael@curd-nerd.com if you are keen to put together a short post about your beeswaxing : )

  8. Wilda

    27/11/2012 at 10:22 am

    I am new to cheese making and am having trouble with my cheese wax cracking after I put my cheese in the cave to age. It sometimes cracks right away and other times takes a few hours. What am I doing wrong?
    Help!!

    • curdnerd

      17/12/2012 at 11:58 am

      Are you using proper cheese making wax?

      This is usually more pliable and won’t crack in the colder temperatures.

  9. Sue

    08/02/2013 at 8:30 am

    Hi. What I am wondering about is, if you should dry the cheese before waxing, if you cut it before waxing, then that part will not be dry. …so should you cut it into the sections you want and then dry them or is it not a good idea to cut it and then dry it as the inside is rougher and harder to dry, maybe easier to mold, etc..?? Thanks. :)

    • curdnerd

      09/02/2013 at 2:47 pm

      For me, the answer to this depends on the size of the cheese.

      If your round is large enough, definitely cut it into sections first and air dry all sides before waxing.

      If the round is smaller, I would suggest leaving it in one piece as air drying all sides of the cut pieces will result in more rind, and less paste.

      But to answer your question generally, yes, all sides of the cheese should be air dried before waxing.

  10. nicolle

    25/02/2013 at 6:36 am

    So I just un pressed my first cheddar I want to wedge it before I wax it. Should I cut it now and air dry it in wedges then dip it in the wax? Or can I cut it at time of waxing?

    • Curd-Nerd

      21/05/2013 at 11:28 am

      Hi Nicolle

      You can go either way with this, and there are pros and cons to both approaches. With cutting up your wedges first, you can then air dry all surfaces and reduce the possibility of molds growing on any un-dried surfaces after waxing. The flip side is that by cutting your cheese into wedges first, you increased the rind surface and create less area for the cheese ‘paste’. You will also need to take into account the reduced mass for aging as smaller cheeses can dry out more quickly with less than desired results. With air drying first, then cutting into wedges, you will usually get a better aged cheese, and less rind, but if the cheese is still quite ‘wet’ when waxing, you can risk molds under the wax.

      For me, it is about a balancing act. I air dry my cheeses whole first, then wedge them, then air dry them for another day or so before waxing. I then make sure my wax is hot enough to kill anything on the surface of the cheese and wax my wedges.

      Sometimes figuring out how either scenario works best is to give it a go and actually experience the results for yourself. Then you can decide on your plan going forward.

      Good luck!

  11. Gemma

    05/12/2013 at 11:25 am

    Hello, looking for some advice please… I’m in the process of making my first chedder. I am going to wax it when dry. There were some patches of mould on it which I wiped off with brine. There are still a few small ‘dots’ on the chedder that aren’t coming off. Is it ok to wax with those bits still on? Or should they be cut out? Thanks in advance!

    • Curd-Nerd

      03/02/2014 at 4:09 pm

      You don’t want to wax your cheese until you have cleaned those patches of mold right off, or removed them. Once they are under your wax they can happily grow and spread and completely ruin your cheese.

  12. ian ridsdale

    08/03/2014 at 12:14 pm

    Hi,
    I have tried the dipping method a couple of times with mixed results. One cheese was ok, with the others, the wax lifted clean off very easily, especially as I re-dipped.. also it seemed to sit ‘on’ the cheese rather than be stuck to it.
    For me, painting the wax on is the way to go. A couple of good coats. You have much more control, and the wax definately sticks.

  13. Sharon

    02/04/2014 at 5:31 pm

    Hi. Last year I was making cheese and my wax “burped,” and splattered all over creating quite the mess. I got it cleaned up and the wax I was able to save I put into a pan. I want to clear it by straining it, but I really don’t want to go pouring hot wax through a cheese cloth and lose an expensive item, not to mention transferring hot wax from one pan to another. Am I missing something? When you say to strain it through cheese cloth, is there a safe method of doing so? Someone suggested using a strainer and then dipping the strainer in hot water afterward to remove the wax. To be honest, that’s never worked for me. Any suggestions? Thanks.

    • Curd-Nerd

      04/04/2014 at 2:58 pm

      I use a very fine mesh, metal strainer, and keep it just for use for cheese wax. I wash it off with a boiling jug of water into the compost heap (not down the drain!).

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