Cheese Fridge Tips

Most semi-hard and hard cheeses need a constant temperature of between 10-14°C in which to mature correctly.  So lets answers some reader questions on the topic and dispense some cheese fridge tips.

This is the subject of today’s reader email.  Sandra wants some information about cheese (aka wine) fridge issues.

Hi Gavin,

Could you please tell me the Brand of Wine Fridge you purchased for your Cheeses?

Have you had any problems with the thermostat in it holding a constant temperature – summer and winter?

I have been having lots of problems with the Tempo 16 Bottle Wine Fridge I bought. I am on my second Tempo Wine Fridge in two years. After 6 months the thermostats start floating all over the place – mostly too hot – hence ruining my cheeses.

I mostly make Camembert, Blues, Farmers and Swiss cheeses.

I would appreciate your help.
Sandra

Well firstly, thank you Sandra for your email.  I enjoy answering each and every one of them from my readers.

The model of my cheese fridge is a 28 bottle wine fridge, similar to yours.  It is made by PAVO (I have no association with this company).  I have no idea if it is good, bad, or otherwise.  It has worked tirelessly for the 3.5 years that I have owned it.

That said, I have discovered some interesting things about how to maintain the temperature of these devices.  They are not really fridges at all, and do not employ normal refrigeration techniques.  This type of fridge is a thermoelectric wine cooler and only uses 70 watts.

These type of fridges need a room temperature of below 75°F to function correctly.  They also need adequate ventilation, and lots of room behind it so that it works effectively.  My cheese fridge has about 30 cm (1 ft) clearance all around the sides and back.  It is also located away from any heat sources like other fridges, ovens, stoves, etc.

I also keep a remote temperature and relative humidity sensor inside the fridge, just to keep an eye on it when I am at my desk.

The final tip is about humidity.  These sorts of fridges normally keep the air inside at about 40-50%  RH, which is far too low for cheese making.  I have found that by filling a 4 litre plastic tub with water and placing on the floor of the fridge, it brings the humidity up to about 75%RH.  This is still a bit low for most cheese, so I keep blue and mould cheese in a separate container to ripen which ensures a much higher humidity.

I can ripen cheese like Caerphilly and Farmhouse for the first month, then wax them before they split.

You can also repurpose an old kitchen refrigerator using an external thermometer device.  A long time reader sent me through this information.

Hi Gavin

I don’t know if you’re familiar, but there is an item that can transform a normal fridge to a cheese cave level. I’ve read blogs from people here in the US who use them and they say they work well. I haven’t read enough of your blog to know If you’ve seen them before, if so I’m sorry, but I thought if not, you might be interested. I got this off of the Cheesemaker.com website:

JC Thermostat
Turn your refrigerator or freezer into a cheese cave.

This thermostat makes it easy to convert your refridgerator or freezer into a ‘cheese cave’. Just plug the thermostat into your wall socket. Then plug your freezer or refridgerator into the thermostat and adjust the thermostat anywhere from 20-80f degrees.(6.6 to 26.6c).Accuracy: +or- one degree F. 110-120V AC. UL listed. This thermostat does not work with 220v.

I’ve attached the picture that went with the description in the attachment. Perhaps you can locate it’s Australian equivalent and share it with your readers. Thanks again. Look forward to reading more of your blog!

Sharon

Here is a picture of the thermostat.

Hopefully, I have given you and all other readers enough information to make your cheese maturation a reality with one of these fridges.

If anyone else has any other tips for maintaining the correct temperature in your repurposed wine fridge, please leave a comment.

Addendum: Since writing this post I have moved to a better method for maturing cheese.  You can read about my new cheese fridge here!

Drunken Cow Cheese Recipe

Drunken Cow Cheese is now a favourite.  I shared some with friends the other day, and they sung the praises of this delicious cheese.

Drunken Cow Cheese
 So how do you make it?
Well let me share a modified recipe from Tim Smith’s Making Artisan Cheese.  His Spanish recipe titled Cabra Al Vino calls for goat’s milk and doesn’t specify what type of red wine to bathe the pressed cheese in, so let me be a little more specific.  The fancy Italian name for this cheese would be Formaggio Ubriaco (Drunken Cheese).

Drunken Cow Cheese

Ingredients
  • 8 litres (2 gallons) full cream cows milk
  • 1/8th teaspoon Mesophilic direct set culture
  • 1/8th teaspoon Calcium Chloride diluted in 1/4 cup unchlorinated water
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup unchlorinated water
  • 1 Tablespoon cheese salt
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) water, heated to 80°C (175°F)
1.5 L (1.5 quarts) Sweet Red wine (like dark Lambrusco or a darker Crimson Cabernet), enough to cover cheese after pressing.
Method
 
This is a washed curd cheese, which lowers final acidity.
  1. Pour milk in 10 litre stainless steel pot.
  2. Add diluted calcium chloride, stir well.  Heat the cow’s milk to 32°C (90°F), and stir in diluted starter culture, cover, and ripen for 10 minutes.
  3. Maintaining the target temp of 32°C, add diluted rennet and stir for one minute.  Cover and let set for one hour at target temperature.
  4. Check for a clean break.  Once you have a clean break, cut curds into 1 cm (1/2″) cubes.  Stir gently for one minute, then let curds rest for five minutes at target temperature.
  5. With a sterilized measuring cup, draw off one-third of the whey.  Gradually add the heated water, and stir to bring the temperature of the curds up to 33°C (92°F).  This will take around two and a half cups of heated water.  Stir continuously to keep the curds from matting at the bottom of the pot.
  6. Once you reach the new target temp, let the curds rest for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Drain off the whey to the level of the curds using your sterilized cup.  Continue to add the 80°C (175°F) water, stirring constantly until the temperature of the curds reaches 38°C (100°F).
  8. Maintain the target temperature for fifteen minutes, stirring to prevent matting.  Let the curds sit in the pot for thirty minutes at 38°C (100°F).
Draining/Pressing
  1. Strain off the whey using a cheesecloth.  Pour the curds back into the pot, and mill into 6 mm (1/4″) pieces.  Blend in the salt.
  2. Pack the curds into a 900 gm (2 lbs) lined mould.  Cover the curds with one corner of the cheese cloth, apply the follower, and press at 10 kg (20 lbs) for twenty minutes.  Remove cheese from press, and gently unwrap.  Turn cheese over, rewrap, and press at 10 kg (20 lbs) for twenty hours.  Repeat by turning over again and press at 10 kg (20 lbs) for twelve hours.
Bathing
  1. Remove cheese from the press and mould, skewer about 10 holes about halfway through the cheese on each end, then bathe the cheese in a sterilized food grade plastic container in the red wine for 24 hours.  Ensure the cheese is completely covered and flip end-over-end at the 12 hour mark.
  2. Remove the cheese, lay on cheese mat (or sushi mats) for about six hours, or until it is dry to touch.
  3. Repeat the wine bath for another 24 hours, topping up with additional wine if necessary, flip again at the 12 hour mark.  Remove, and dry on mats until touch dry.
Maturation
  1. Store the cheese in your cheese fridge at 11°C (52F) and 80-85% humidity for three months.  If you cannot maintain humidity, wax the cheese before it cracks.
  2. Turn cheese daily for the first two weeks, and wipe down with a brine solution if mould forms on the surface.
Drunken Cow Cheese after wine bathed
 As I mentioned in the review for this cheese, it is delicious.  Give drunken cow cheese a try.  I don’t think you will not be disappointed!
I love this cheese!

Drunken Cow Verdict

The Drunken Cow cheese has matured, so it is time for a taste test.

This cheese was made on the 3rd of August 2012 from 3.8% butterfat full cream milk.

Drunken Cow Verdict

Drunken Cow Verdict

De-waxing: Slight swelling of the wax.  There was a little moisture under the wax, with clear sweet liquid running out after the seal was broken.  It was not sour. I had to dry the outside of the cheese with paper towel.   The colour of the rind had faded slightly, but still very distinct.  When lightly pressed, liquid came out of the crack in the top of the round.  At this stage I was a bit worried.

Drunken Cow Verdict

Texture:  Easy to cut, and not flaky.  Very slight marbling from the wine, with clear sweet liquid within the cheese structure.  Layered lines throughout the cheese.  Cheese smooth and soft and very moist.

Drunken Cow Verdict - Cuts well

Taste:  I tried it by itself, and the flavour blew me away!  You could smell the sweet wine on the rind, and the cheese was smooth on the palate.  A bit like Gouda, but finishes in the mouth with a sweet, slightly sugary after-taste.  The rind was sweeter but harder, and the centre was soft and smooth.

An absolutely delightful cheese, with an exciting flavour.  Unlike any other cheese I have tasted before.  The washed curds technique really tempered down the final acidity and sharpness.

Given the addition of 1.5 litres of sweet red wine to marinate this cheese in, it pushes the cost of this cheese up quite a bit, compared to a normal hard cheese.  However, it is well worth it as it really improves the final flavour.

I highly recommend the cheese for a moderately experienced home cheese maker.  As it matures in only three months, it is a relatively quick cheese to make, and well worth the wait.  This cheese will really impress your friends and family!

I will publish the recipe in the next post.

[Cross posted on The Greening of Gavin]