Monday, 7 January 2013

Storing Cheese After Aging

How do you store cheese after aging?  Do you need to stop the maturation process?  Can you?

There are some of the questions that I was asked today by a reader, Roger in NZ.  Here is his email (with permission).

"Greetings Gavin,

I hope you had a great Xmas and New Year.

I wonder if you could tell me about what to do once your cheese has matured. I have made your Stilton and Wensleydale and they are maturing nicely so when they are ready do you cut them into wedges and wrap them?

Are they then kept in the refrigerator or are they left in the cheese maturing box?

Do you remove all the cheese wax when you first cut into the Wensleydale?

Sorry to bother you about this but I envy your extensive knowledge on these things.

Thanks and best regards,
Roger, Palmerston North, New Zealand"
Well Roger and dear readers, these are some issues that you will need to deal with as your cheese matures.

Personally, semi-hard cheese like Wensleydale can be treated in two ways.  The first way is to leave it to mature in your cheese fridge/cave until you want to use it, as it will grow stronger in flavour as time passes.  However there will come a time when you want to stop maturation and keep that certain special flavour until the cheese is totally consumed.

When I think a cheese has matured, I removed the wax, give the cheese a clean with a clean cloth and brine solution if it has any blemishes or mould, and then taste a little bit of it.

If the cheese has not reached the desired flavour, I re-wax it as quickly as I can and pop it back in the cheese fridge with a new date attached to it for when I am going to retry it again.

Aged Pepperjack with a re-waxed quarter.
However, if the cheese is just right, then I cut it into quarters, and either vac-pack each quarter separately, or re-wax each quarter, label them and put them in a cheese box that I have in the normal refrigerator.  By dropping the temperature down to around 4C (39F), it slows down the aging process dramatically.  Excluding air by waxing or vac-packing each quarter ensures that there should be no further mould development.

If it is a Stilton or Blue cheese, you could vac-pack, but I find that it is just as easy and safe to wrap in cheese micro-wrap, or wrapping in grease-proof baking paper.  Then store it in the normal refrigerator as per a semi-hard cheese.  

Same goes for a hard cheese like Parmesan or Romano.  I simply wrap these cheeses in baking paper, store them at 4C, and they tend not to dry out any further.

Besides, my finished cheese tends not to be stored too long after maturation, because our family has either eaten it, or I have given it away to friends!

I hope this post has shed some light on what to do with your cheese after maturation.

Do any of you do it differently that may be worth mentioning?  Please feel free to leave a comment.

2 comments:

  1. I suppose I have a slightly different situation because we make all our cheese when our cow has lots of milk and need to keep it through the year. At first we set up a cheese fridge at the right temperature, but to be honest, all our cheeses seemed to taste the same no matter what we did (the joy of unpasturised milk!). So now I just use a very simple recipe (Romano) and vac pack it after its dried out from the brine, about a week in the normal fridge seems ok. Then we just leave them vac packed in the normal fridge until we need them. I tend to grate the cheese and keep it in a bag in the freezer ready to sprinkle on things. The other cheese that I find is quick and easy is feta and it seems to do well stored in oil and herbs in the fridge (texture improves over time too :)). I tried storing it in brine and it dissolved! My aim is to keep things very simple, as I don't have time for waxing and working out when to do things at the right time. I think this would be different to just making cheese with bought milk whenever you feel like, for me its more of a chore to use up the excess milk we have, although it is an enjoyable chore when it all goes well.

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  2. Hi Gavin

    Not sure if I have sent this already as it disappeared from my screen!!

    Although not exactly on the subject of what to do with cheese that has aged sufficiently I notice on this blog a photo showing your cheese and some store-bought crackers. Here is a very nice recipe for home made crackers that are much more flavourful that the store-bought ones.


    Crackers


    1. In a large bowl mix:

    1½ cups Whole-wheat flour
    1 cup White flour
    1 tsp Baking Powder
    ½ tsp Salt
    1/3 cup Oil (I use olive oil)
    ½ cup Sunflower seeds (raw)
    ¼ cup Ground flax
    ¼ cup Sesame seeds
    1 cup Water

    Combine everything into a dough which should be moist but not sticky.

    2. Roll out the dough to 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick and transfer to a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper.

    3. Score the lines but do not separate pieces. It is easier to press the knife down rather than slide it along. Or use a pizza cutter.

    4. Lightly brush the surface with salty water.

    5. Bake 20 – 25 mins at 375 F (190 C) or until crackers are just turning a brownish colour. They do not need to be crispy at this stage as they will harden up as they cool on the baking sheet or cooling rack. Let crackers cool for 5 mins, then break apart on scored lines and finally let them cool completely.

    Notes:

    1. Do not overwork the dough as it will become rubbery like bread dough and be very difficult to roll out. Regular pastry flour might be better.

    2. Put a second cookie sheet on the oven rack below to shield the crackers and prevent them getting burnt.

    I look forward to seeing a photo of your cheese alongside your home made crackers.

    David

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