I'm often asked what the process is for waxing a wheel of cheese.* My technique is decidedly low-tech. I've basically set up a double-boiler to do the job. Using a small pot I picked up from Ross Dress for Less (no way was I going to destroy my Calphalon!), I boil about 2" of water, placing a steel can (originally from some canned veggies) right into the water. I then melt a few chunks of cheese wax in the can. The goal is to bring the wax up to as high a temperature as possible--that way when it makes contact with the cheese it will kill any bacteria or mold that's currently on the cheese, and simultaneously seal the cheese.
The key is to brush the wax on in many layers--otherwise it'll be too thick and will end up just being mushy as you try to hold the cheese. Then just continue painting on the wax, until you've got a nice, even shell--making absolutely sure not to leave any air holes!
Another technique, which I haven't tried yet, is to heat up a larger quantity of wax, and then simply dip the cheese into the wax (half at a time). You've got to be careful, though, as the wax is very slippery! Best to dip one side, let it cool, and then dip the other, let it cool a bit, and alternate a few times until you've gotten a nice buildup of wax.
Some other pointers:
- Make sure you use a natural fiber brush. Nylon bristles will melt!
- Set up some wax paper on your counters -- as you're working, it'll make a mess (see above pic!), and you can safely set the cheese down for a moment without worrying about it becoming glued to your workspace.
- Chill the cheese first! This will help the wax cool quickly on the cheese, making it much easier and faster to complete this process.
- Label your cheese! I take a small piece of paper, write the name of the cheese and the current date, and then my very last step is to put the label on the top. (Brush a bit of wax on the top, and while it's still wet, slap that label right on there. Then give it a light coat or two on top of the label, and it'll stay put but you'll still be able to read it through the wax.)
- The leftover wax can stay in the can. Just let it cool, and cover with some saran wrap or some such. That way next time you'll be ready to just drop it straight into the hot water.
- Never heat wax by direct flame. It's flammable (and so are the vapors). Don't leave it unattended, either! Keep some air moving in your kitchen and you'll be just fine.
- You can re-use the wax. Melt it down and strain it through butter muslin. Messy, but cost-effective.
* That's a lie. I've never been asked. I'm gunna tell you anyway, though.
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