Saturday, February 19, 2011

Waxing my Cheese

The first Hard Rind Cheese I attempted has been drying in the refrigerator, with a change of clean and dry cheesecloth everyday. Finally it has quit "weeping" excess moisture and is ready to be waxed and put on the shelf out in the root cellar to age.

I have a beautiful double boiler a good friend in Ohio sent me, still new in the box. However, it is aluminum and I don't like to use aluminum as cookware, but it is perfect to melt other things. I bought some paraffin last summer to wax the metal lids on jars of dry goods stored in the root cellar to inhibit rust in that high-humidity environment. And, since I still had some paraffin in it, I heated it again to use on this small cheese wheel.

I had to set the double boiler on the oven door so I could see into the pot and show a picture! I dipped the small wheel several times, rotating to get good coverage. (The paraffin doesn't show against the cheese since they are close in color.) I suppose it has about 7-8 layers. Paraffin is generally too brittle to use as a cheese wax, but it's what I had on hand and will suffice until I can order some cheese wax.

It's now ready to make the journey to a shelf in the root cellar to age for several months. The humidity in there is not quite high enough for cheese; it stays around 75-80% RH, which is great for curing meat, but cheese needs 90-95% RH. So until I get the wine cooler I was promised for use as a cheese cave, I will set the wheel over a pan of salted water.

I know there must be field mice in the building since it is still winter. I'm thinking to line my small live animal trap (Havahart) with metal window screen to enclose the cheese, just in case. Those buggers can get through the tiniest openings! It's a tedious chore to line the cage, but I'm stumped for an alternative and not willing to risk the cheese!

Update: My oldtimer-neighbor Buster says ¼" hardware cloth (aka rabbit wire) will keep the mice out. That's certainly easier to fasten to the trap than window screening. In fact, I actually had some, so I wrapped the trap with it. Now it's ready to put in the root cellar... and cross my fingers that there are no tiny (and hungry) mice living in there!

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