We are very lucky to have a aspiring artisan cheese maker on the farm. Somehow the stars aligned and Alison a year or so ago decided to have a go at making cheese. It’s been allot of fun watching and tasting the journey. There have been more downs then ups so far with a good percentage of hard work ending up as feed for the pigs. Lucky pigs.
The biggest challenge for Alison, and her cheese buddy Nicky has been storage. Cheese is not pleased to be stored in any old environment. Nicky bought a little wine fridge which has given her an edge on good ageing. Alison has asked me to work my ebay magic on a special fridge and I have not had much luck to date winning anything good. This morning I was having a look again on ebay and then thought I would rise above and think out of the box and search for a more farm oriented solution. Farmers are known for their innovation which is generally fueled by lack of cash. I think I have found something. A cave. I am not going to hop on the tractor and start digging just yet. But don’t rule that out in the future. In the meantime here is some valuable and interesting information on how to make a cheese cave in a regular fridge. And the best part it looks like I will need to get back on ebay and buy up some big tupperware. Yeah.
Home Made Cheese Cave
I’d like to share some tips on storing cheese. Stored properly cheese has a remarkable shelf life. The optimal environment for most cheese is about 50 – 55 degrees Fahrenheit and a level of humidity that stays constant. For centuries caves, which are usually cool and have a consistent humidity, have been great environments to age and store cheese. Caves are still used today, but usually they are man-made structures with a highly controlled environment.
At home, we unfortunately have a refrigerator to deal with; its 10 – 15 degrees cooler then a cave and it has a tendency to suck the moisture out of anything that is unprotected. To protect the cheese you will need an airtight container. The size of the container should be larger then what is needed; 40% cheese and 60% empty space (air). I use the 64 oz. disposable plastic container from Glad. It has a flat bottom and can hold a couple of cheeses leaving enough air so the cheese can breathe. You may have more or less cheese at home and therefore may want to adjust the size of the container accordingly.
Now we have a “home-made cheese cave”. We can adjust the humidity of the air inside the container by using wet paper towel, crumpled up in a ball and placed in a corner of the container. The paper towel should not be dripping wet. The object is to introduce moisture to the air and not to leave the bottom of your container with standing water. The paper towel should not be touching the cheese; the air should be damp, not the cheese. Wrap your cheese in wax paper or parchment. It would be a waist of time to put any cheese in your new cheese cave wrapped in plastic. Store your cheese cave in the warmest part of your refrigerator, like the vegetable bin.
Check the container once a week. Inspect your cheese and trim or scrape any mold. If you find the cheese wet or slimy, reduce the amount of moisture in the paper towel. Of course if you find your cheese dry, add more moisture to the towel.
The best part of having a cheese cave: NO MORE STINKY CHEESE FRIDGE!
NEVER… freeze your cheese! Please don’t do it! Mercy for the beautiful cheeses.
If you do freeze your cheese, plan to use it for cooking only and keep it off any cheese plate.
use two separate cheese caves -one for dry and the other for blues and wetter cheese.
Use those cool Waxtex wax paper sandwich bags to wrap your cheese in.
Instead of a knife, try using a cheese plane when removing mold. I find there is less waste.