October 28, 2009

Waxing Cheese Using a Double Boiler




I've finally graduated from the "melting wax in an old steel can in a pot of water" technique to a bona fide, honest-to-goodness double-boiler setup.  Dipping the cheese directly in the wax is slightly trickier than brushing it on, but it produces a smoother "shell" around the wheel, gets more even coverage, and ends up looking just so much nicer.  The outside is a smooth surface, rather than all those rough brush strokes.

A few points to remember:
  • Don't run out of water!  As I got low on wax, it started boiling.  I lifted the top pot out and found the bottom had boiled off all the water.  Whoops!  
  • Watch out for steam burns!
  • Warm wax is slippery!  Just be uber-careful not to drop the cheeese in the pot of hot wax, for obvious reasons...
  • Wax Paper can indeed catch on fire!  'Nuff said on that topic. 
  • Wax vapors can ignite!  So make sure you're working in a well-ventilated area.
  • Remember to chill the cheese before waxing!  I always forget this step, and it makes a huge difference in the workability of the whole thing.  If the cheese is cold, the wax cools and hardens on it faster, making it a much easier process.  I ended up having to put the wheels in the freezer for a few minutes between each coat.

7 comments:

  1. I just found your blog! I am so interested in making cheese. I am looking forward to reading all your posts. Is starting out with Feta crazy? It's one of my favorites and I buy it all the time. -LeslieMichele

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  2. hi- i just found your blog too (googled adventures in home cheese making). i used to make cheese here in maine at silvery moon creamery. im just about to start a blog about my own adventures in home cheese making - and other fermented goodies. i look forward to perusing your archives.

    we used to use crockpots for waxing. they were deep enough, we didnt have to clean them out after every use and they stayed hot enough. it is a challenge to lift a 8-10lb wheel into a pot of wax but you get great arm muscles!

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  3. My goodness--it sounds like waxing cheese is quite the adventure :-) Your end result is beautiful!

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  5. @LeslieMichele -- Feta is actually a GREAT cheese to start with! I've followed Ricki Carroll's Feta recipe with good success. The texture has been softer than the store-bought stuff (not so crumbly, but still firm enough to hold a cube shape). More importantly, though, the flavor has been outstanding.

    @Little Bunny -- Do crock pots get hot enough? I'm under the impression that you want the wax as hot as possible (over 200F if possible) to make sure it's sterile and to help kill any mold that might be on the surface of the cheese when it's applied... And please keep me posted on your home cheese making fun!

    @Magpie -- Thanks! ;-)

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  6. Can I use paraffin instead of the red cheese wax??
    nbrauer1@gmail.com

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  7. Hi Nancy -

    I haven't tried it, but paraffin may become too brittle at the colder "cave temperatures" and end up cracking. Check out the conversation in the comments on one of my other posts about wax:

    http://www.imakecheese.com/2009/05/how-to-wax-cheese.html

    If you do try the paraffin, please let us know how it worked!

    Best,
    Andrew

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