Waxing and Bandaging

Applying a Smooth Coat of Wax

Q. How do you create a smooth, commercial look with waxed cheeses? I have tried various methods of brushing and dipping, and I have even experimented with varying my wax temperature, but my waxed cheeses always end up with creases, ridges, seams, fingerprints and/or areas of inconsistent and uneven thickness.

A. Heat cheese wax to 225-230°F, always stay close by when heating wax, it will combust if heated too high. 

Dip your cheese with two to three passes. Hold it firmly by one edge (the narrower part), dip and hold for 6-10 seconds, this is the time needed to flash any mold spores that could grow under the wax. You may need to rock it back and forth in the wax for good coverage, but never touch the bottom of the pot.

After the first dip, allowing the wax to drip off the edge of the cheese. Flip the cheese so that the waxed edge is up and hold it there until it cools. Then, carefully set it on the un-waxed side so that it does not roll, do not touch the newly waxed surface. Allow the cheese to sit until it has cooled so you can handle the newly waxed surface without leaving marks or peeling the wax.

Repeat the same process to coat the un-waxed side of your cheese. You may need to repeat this process one more time, if the cheese large in diameter. When done, allow your waxed cheese to cool.

Now, allow the wax to cool to 190-200°F and repeat the entire process to add another full coat of wax to your cheese. This will be a slightly thicker coat and will fill in any bubbles or pin holes from the first coat.

Pinholes in Wax and Leaking

Q. I just waxed my cheese, unfortunately, pinholes within the wax are leaking oil/butter fat. Is this a problem?

A. The pinhole problem is quite common and can easily be resolved by applying two coats of wax. The small holes are caused by air bubbles during the waxing process, when you apply a second coat, they will get covered.

Your real problem may be what is leaking through the wax. Unless your cheese is sitting in a warm area, and it's just butterfat, the cheese most likely leaking moisture caused by late fermentation. This is can be from too much whey, containing lactose, in the curds when molding. This can be prevented in future batches by stirring the curds longer, increasing the temperature by a few degrees, and making sure you added enough culture to the milk and ripened long enough to convert the lactose to lactic acid.

Mold on Cheese Under Wax

Q. My waxed cheeses are all developing mold under the wax. I am very careful with cleanliness. They are stored at 55°F in a wine fridge that I use for cheese. What might be my problem and do I need to do anything besides cut the mold off when I eat the cheese?

A. Mold under the wax is either due to waxing at too low a temperature or leaving pinholes during the waxing. It may even be caused by small breaks or cracks caused by improper handling of waxed cheese.

If the situation is bad enough, remove the wax, scrape the surface clean and re-wax. If the mold growth is minor, you might just leave it and remove the slight mold when you are ready to eat the cheese.

Don't Wax Mozzarella

Q. I recently smoked some store-bought mozzarella and it was absolutely delicious. Is there any way I could wax a "loaf" of it? I like to slice it prior to smoking so I can get good smoke coverage on each piece; if I put it back together into a "loaf," is there a way to wax it? 

A. Mozzarella is normally not considered a cheese for waxing. It is too high in moisture and problems can develop over time. If you want to wax short term, it might work, but wax tends to not stick to moist cheese and the fat that rises during smoking may also prove to be a problem.

In regards to stacking, if you do stack the pieces together before waxing, you'll probably see mold developing because the hot wax cannot flash the mold spores which likely have already settled there.

Mold Growth on Bandaged Cheese

Q. I have a cloth-bandaged Cheddar in my cheese cave. Do I have to manage the mold? Some recipes don't say anything. Other recipes advise to brush off mold and reapply a coat of lard, say weekly. 

A. All you need to do is turn your cheese weekly. The lard is only used when initially applying the bandage wrap.

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