How to Apply Wax to hard Cheese

waxing a wheel of gouda

Cheese Wax is a mixture of refined waxes, polymers and sometimes pigments intended for use in coating cheese. Waxing is the traditional method of sealing a cheese for aging. Wax creates a barrier between the cheese and the surrounding environment, greatly reducing the amount of oxygen that can come in contact with the cheese while still allowing some gas exchange and keeping the cheese from drying out during the aging process.

Melting Cheese Wax

Since cheese wax is flammable at temperatures over 374° F, the wax must be melted in a double boiler which will never go past 212° F. A one quart reusable food storage container or a disposable foil pan is perfect for melting and storing your wax. The wax should be in a completely liquid state prior to applying to the cheese. Again, heating the wax over direct heat or in the microwave is NOT recommended.

The size and shape of your wax container will determine the size of the cheese you can manage and the size of the waxed cheese will affect the aging process. In most cases the bigger the cheese the better the aging. There are notable exceptions, like Baby Gouda which are intentionally made small. The cheese wheels produced by the recommended Tomme press can be managed pretty well. One may elect to cut the wheels in half or quarters prior to waxing. Making the cheese smaller than that is not recommended as the cheese may dry out too fast as it ages.

Tip: Wax will adhere best when cheese is completely dry and chilled.

Applying the Wax

Prepare your work area by placing a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper on the counter next to your stove. You will need this nonstick surface to set the hot waxed cheese on to cool.

Holding one edge of the cheese, dip opposite half into the melted wax. Hold it there for a few seconds. Remove the cheese and allow the wax to harden.

Lay the cheese down on nonstick surface and allow the wax to cool.

Pick up the cheese by the waxed side and dip the un-waxed side. Repeat the cooling process.

The Waxing Brush

Use a small natural boar bristle paint brush to touch up any holes or exposed areas. The cheese needs to be completely sealed in order to discourage mold growth. It may be necessary to give the cheese more than one coating of wax.

Aging Waxed Cheese

Turn the cheese over daily for first two weeks of aging. After that, turn once per week.

*This article is an excerpt from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cheese Making by James R. Leverentz.

homemade cheese tray

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