How to prepare cheese for ripening?
After pressing and salting the cheese, it is necessary that a crust forms on it – a natural protective coating that will ensure normal cheese ripening. The crust is formed during the drying process of the cheese, and its quality largely depends on the quality of the molding and pressing (pay due attention to this).
The cheese is usually dried for 3-5 days at room temperature in well-ventilated areas. You can place the drying cheese on a wooden surface or a drainage mat. It is necessary to turn the cheese several times a day during drying. If moisture is released (this is normal at the beginning of drying), you can gently remove the excess with a paper towel. If mold appears on the surface of the cheese during drying, it’s okay, just wipe it with a cloth dipped in saline or vinegar, and then dry it again.
Cheese with a natural crust, as well as cheeses with superficial molds are ready to be transferred to the ripening chamber immediately after drying; they do not need to be coated. In other cases, the surface of the cheese must be coated with a special substance that will protect the cheese throughout the ripening period. Let’s take a look at the types of cheese coatings and how to apply them:
Coating cheese with wax or paraffin is an old and still widely used method of protecting cheese from external influences during the ripening period, both in small dairies and in large enterprises. The wax for covering the cheese should be free of fragrances and impurities. The color doesn’t matter, but traditionally different types of cheese were waxed in different colors.
How to wax cheese at home:
- Place a special container under the wax (preferably glass or ceramic). It will not work for anything else, melted and frozen wax is very difficult to wash off.
- You will also need a brush to apply the melted wax to the cheese.
- Prepare a water bath: Fill a larger pot with water and place a container of wax in it.
- Heat the wax slowly in a water bath until all of it is melted. Stir it, do not bring it to a boil.
- When the wax is thin enough, dip the cheese into it, holding one side with your fingers. After a couple of seconds, remove the cheese and let the wax harden. Repeat the procedure, turning the cheese so that only the middle is left uncovered with the wax.
- Scoop up the wax with a brush and apply to the remaining uncoated cheese surface.
- Let the wax harden.
Please note that Swiss-type cheeses with large eyes, which form during the ripening process, slightly increase in size (round up), which can lead to cracks in the wax coating. For this type of cheese, it is advisable to use a different coating (latex or shrink bag).
This is a new invention, which is now used in the production of expensive cheeses. It is a gel that, after application, forms a transparent film on the surface of the cheese. The latex coating protects the surface of the cheese from yeast and mold growth, regulates moisture and gas exchange.
Liquid latex is applied to the surface of the cheese in 2-3 layers with a brush. Then it must be dried within the time indicated on the package.
Wax can also be applied over the latex coating.
This is an old way of covering cheese, now mainly used in the production of cheddar and some other British cheeses. Its essence is to cover the cheese with a layer of gauze after the cheese is pressed:
- Cut 2 circles of cheesecloth slightly larger than the diameter of the cheese head.
- Soak them in warm water and place them on top and bottom of the cheese, smoothing out the wrinkles.
- Place the cheese back into the pressing pan, leaving only these 2 pieces of cheesecloth and press the cheese with the final weight for another 1 hour.
- Cut out another piece of cheesecloth, suitable to wrap around the cheese. Soak it in warm water.
- Remove the cheese from the mold and wrap a cut piece of gauze around the diameter. Make sure that no wrinkles and folds remain.
- Place the cheese back in the mold and press with the same weight as the previous time overnight.
- Remove the cheese from the mold. It is ready to ripen.
Another great way to protect cheese during ripening is to coat it with butter. Olive oil is ideal, which can also be supplemented with various spices or ground coffee beans. Apply a thin layer of olive oil to the dry surface of the cheese, then rub it into the crust, after which the cheese is ready to ripen. If the crust is dry, the oily coating should be reapplied (this should be done about once a week).
Special bags designed to protect the cheese during ripening. They take the shape of a cheese and completely enclose it if you place the cheese in such a bag for a few seconds in hot water. Helps regulate gas exchange and prevent the growth of mold and unwanted bacteria on the cheese surface. Dry the crust well before placing it in the shrink bag. The edge of the bag can be tied in a knot or sealed (you need the bag to be sealed).