Cheese Making: Waxing the Round

by Catherine Haug, June 5, 2011

(photos by Shelli Riedesel. & Catherine Haug)

Back in April & May, in preparation for the upcoming Cheese Making at Home, a Panel Presentation (June 15, 7 PM at Clementine’s), Shelli and I started an experiment to make cheese using pasteurized Kalispell Kreamery whole milk. I published our final success last month (see Cheese Making with Kalispell Kreamery Milk).  We made a small round of semi-hard cheese, and after pressing out as much water as we could over 10 days, we waxed it with beeswax.

See also printable version of this post at: Cheese Making: Waxing the Round.

Online Resources

We used several online resources for ideas on how to do this safely and efficiently. Our primary resource for the entire cheesemaking and waxing process has been Dr. David Fankhauser, PhD; see his index at Fankhauser’s Cheese Page. And see ‘Sources’ (below) for more.

Precautions

>> It’s important that the cheese be well chilled before waxing, as you get a better seal. And the seal is important because it will keep molds putrefactive bacteria from getting into your cheese.

>> You can use paraffin, cheese wax or beeswax.

  • Beeswax is your best sustainable and renewable choice. Smells nice too.
  • Paraffin is brittle and cracks easily, breaking the seal. Cheesewax is made from paraffin with additional ingredients to make it pliable for a better seal. However, I don’t recommend any paraffin products because they are simply not sustainable

[Wax made from soy might be another option, but the way soy is grown in America makes it not a sustainable choice.]

>> Ensure that the entire surface is well coated with the wax; seal any holes or cracks with melted wax.

>> Press out any bubbles in the wax, as they can interfere with a good seal.

Our Method

First we cut off a chunk of beeswax:

Cutting Slab of Beeswax

Then placed it in a glass pie pan, to melt the wax in the oven.

Many sources recommend melting in a microwave, but this is not safe as the wax could ignite. Other sources suggest using a double boiler, but humidity could be an issue. We found using a pie pan in a 350° F oven worked well (1), at least for beeswax.

Melted Beeswax

Meanwhile we removed the pressed cheese from the refrigerator and unwrapped its bandage. It should be chilled so that the wax adheres better.

Dried and Ready for Wax

When the wax was melted, we set the cheese in the wax for just a few moments, then removed it to a sheet of waxed paper, so the beeswax could harden.

We used a pancake turner to place the cheese into and then remove it from the hot wax. Unfortunately, the wax hardened quickly so that when we removed the tool, it took much of the wax with it, leaving a blank spot on the cheese. So we used a spoon to drizzle hot wax on the exposed area, ensuring a good seal with the wax that had stayed with the cheese. Most sources suggest using a brush, but we found the spoon worked well (and we didn’t have a brush).

Ready to Dip in Wax

Here’s the first side with its first wax coating. You can see how uneven it is. (Sorry about that shadow – the wax really wasn’t green…):

First Side Waxed

Next we repeated the dip in the wax followed by removal to the waxed paper, for the other side of the disc of cheese.

Waxing Side 2

Then we rolled it like a wheel to wax the sides of the cheese and returned it to the waxed paper (Sorry, no photo of this step).

This process was repeated two more times for three total coats of wax, using a spoon to drizzle wax on areas that were not coated, or that had cracked.

After 3 Coats of Beeswax

Reusing beeswax

Beeswax can be expensive. You may want to save all the used beeswax (including what you peel off your cheese). Simply melt it down and strain it through buttermuslin or fine cheesecloth for reuse. (3).

Sources

We found several online resources for ideas on how to do this safely and efficiently:

  1. Waxing your Cheese: Why and How by Dr. Fankhauser. He recommends using a pie pan for melting and dipping the cheese, which works well. He also uses bits of old crayon to color the wax, which we don’t recommend. Even though they say ‘non-toxic,’ we are wary.
  2. Fankhauser’s Cheese Page (Index to his site)
  3. Red Cheese Wax from Cheesemaking.com, is a product page that has good information on safety tips, how & why wax, and allergens.
  4. How to Apply Wax to hard Cheese from Leeners.com describes using cheese wax, whereas we used beeswax, but there’s lots of good info here.
  5. How to Wax Cheese from I Make Cheese (blog)
  6. Sustainable goat dairying: Rona’s “Beeswaxing” Method has great info specific to beeswax

Related Posts (this site)

 

 

3 Responses to “Cheese Making: Waxing the Round”

  1. For coloured beeswax prehaps you could mix in an earth pigment, such as burnt sienna or red oxide as you would for making encaustic. Or alternativly turn to natural dyes and perhaps add cochineal. Though I do think the natural beeswax is beautiful the trick would be if you wish to differentiate. At the moment I have a huge piece of the most beaytiful unrefined chocolate brown beeswax.

  2. Wardeh says:

    Catherine — Thank you for sharing your info on using beeswax! :) I am definitely going to try it. The photo essay is great. I downloaded the PDF file (Cheese Making: Waxing the Round (pdf)) for future reference. Thanks!

    [NOTE from Cat: I had shared my post on Waxing the Round as a comment to Wardeh’s post: How to Wax Cheese. See How to Wax Cheese, Cat’s Comment. She then replied to my comment on her site, and I copied it here.]

  3. Catherine says:

    Another natural option for coloring wax is annatto, which gives a red-orange color. Annatto comes from the seed of the achiote tree. See New England Cheese Supply for more.

    It can also be used to color the cheese (think orange cheddar); see Cheese is Alive, and Milk is not Orange or Leeners: Farmhouse Cheddar.