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 humidity. 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.
Cheese Fridge – Not Your Average Kitchen Fridge
Unfortunately, the kitchen fridge doesn’t really allow for this. The temperatures they run at are normally too low and the humidity is all wrong. The other issue you have is the aromas and bacteria 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 cheese makers 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 cheese making 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 cheese making 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.
My Wine Fridge Cheese Cave
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 cheese making 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 humidity. 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.
If you have a cheese fridge or use something similar at home send us a photo we would love to see it. Especially if it is stocked with gorgeous aging cheese.
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Do you have any questions or comments about storing your home made cheese? Join the discussion over at the Curd Nerd Forum. We would love to hear from you!