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Natural Rinds and Ripening

If you want your cheese to ripen properly
you need to prepare it's rind well


This piece began as a discussion with one of our customers as he began his first ripening experiments in his home cheese cave ... the intent here is to give our customers some insight into a real aging situation (sort of like going through it yourself) and to see how much interest there is in a future article on specifics of developing a rind and the aging process
... please let me know ... Jim

Jim!
first of all, thanks for creating such a great kit, we are having a blast at making cheese!!!  last night was our third experience in making cheese, we started with the farmhouse cheddar, then made parmesan, and then made some gouda last night...  we have a couple questions on the drying aging process...  I have read what you wrote in the last newsletter about cheese caves and I think our situation goes under the last category...  our basement where we are living is at an almost solid 55 degrees, so we bought a couple Rubbermaid containers and some mat's, put in a cup with a damp paper towel, and off we went! 

right now we have 2 wheels of parmesan in there and when I go to flip them, I feel like they are softer than when they came out of the brine...  is it possible that there is too much moisture in there???  or do they really need more air???  there is no moisture build up on the lid or on the bottom, or really anywhere in the container...   I guess the question is, is this ok, and continue on as is???

now that we just finished the 2 wheels of Gouda, I see it says we should "air dry" them at 50 degrees for 3 weeks before waxing them...  does that mean NOT in the containers because that really is not "air" drying them???  should they really be out in the open?

we dried the cheddar on our kitchen counter for 4 days before waxing them and all seemed fine...  they are aging in the container with the parmesan, but really have not seemed to change, I'm guessing because they are covered in wax.
 
really, I'm just looking for more info on the drying/aging process...  I feel real comfortable about everything else and for some reason I just don't get the same feeling about this part...  I would hate to make good cheese, then it not turn out good because we messed something up in the aging process???

thank you!!!!
Matt

Matt ..
you are lucky to have such a great place to store the cheese ... the parma can deal w/ a bit drier aging space so at some point you may want to cut back on the moisture

.. the softness of the curd after 7-14 days is a result of the ripening beginning .. after you brine the cheese the curd becomes very tough .. but as the salt migrates to the center .. the outer curd texture begins to soften substantially .. it is good that you noticed this since it indicates the start of ripening

.. now all you need to do is open the box .. turn the cheese and wipe any mold off w/ a dry cloth as you see it .. if the mold gets away from you, use a cloth dampened in a light salt water solution and scrub it off.

Air Drying the cheddars .. not in the containers but not too dry either .. 3 weeks would be too long 5-10 days should dry down the rind .. turn every day.. you willl notice it darkening slightly as the moisture leaves, then treat like the parma I just described.

the waxed cheddar will not change much and require little care but they will dry out if given low humidity and warm temps

sounds like you are well on the way to natural rinds .. one of my workshops will move you into high gear here

as you will soon find out .. cheese making is 20% the make and 80% proper aging..


just a quickie... the gouda we have in the basement is just about due for waxing, tomorrow will be the 3 week mark... some mold has grown on it and we have been wiping it off... with the salt water solution, we are able to get all of the fuzzy stuff off, and the green stuff, but there still is a brown color that is under the fuzzy stuff that just does not come off... do we need to cut that part off before we seal it off with wax? or is the brown ok???

Matt ... 3 weeks is tooo long .. just dry off the surface 3-5 days should do... those are permanent marks now but no big deal just cosmetic
.. wax now and make sure the hot wax contact is at least 6 seconds and the wax is 220-230F .. this will fry any mold on the surface


I also wanted to clarify the parmesan aging then also...  the instruction book says to age it at 55 degrees for 2 months, then after that, wax it...  is this still true also then?  we are starting to see some mold growth on one of the wheels of parmesan already like the Gouda.   Just curious!

I would not wax the parma especially after leaving it for 2 months ... have you ever even seen a waxed parma? .. just brush the mold off as it appears


Jim...  first, thank you very much for all the time you have spent answering my questions, it's been VERY helpful... I'm just trying to do anything I can so after waiting 10 + months, I might have something to try!!!

All of the waxed cheese we have made are looking fine.  No real change since we have waxed it...  the parm on the other hand is a bit different...  again, our basement is at 55 degrees, and about 2 weeks ago, I put the parm in a separate container to lower the humidity...  we were wiping off mold about every 2 days or so...  now I have been traveling and we forgot about it just for a bit...  it has only been 6 days since we last wiped it off, and this is what we found today!!! .....

 

.... is this normal???  seems REALLY weird to us!  Is it recoverable?  Does it damage the inside of the cheese, or is this only on the outside?  is it going to keep getting worse?  do we need to do something different to age it???
thank you so much!
Matt

Matt .. the pics do help a lot .. I would suggest you take a deep breath and grab a cloth soaked in brine and just knock that mold out of there .. I have enclosed a shot of my cave and you can clearly see the mold that is growing well in there
... just get that mold down a bit and keep it clean .. it did get away from you a bit.
the problem I see here is that you do not have very well established rinds and the moisture of the box seems a bit high ... this cheese is totally saveable .. next time a longer dry down after brining and toughen up the rind .. I have cheeses at 4-5 yrs still going strong in the cave
.. your blue is totally moisture related ... and perhaps a lack of air movement.


this is how the aging cheeses in my cave appear


Jim! 
thanks again for getting us on our feet with this parm situation we got ourselves into (mold)...  my wife just
sent me pictures of how it looks now..

.. and just wanted to see if this is on track?  Since I last talked with you, we took the parm into a new box, with no moist towel in it, and cracked the lid a bit to let it dry out more.  I guess there was too much moisture in it still and that is why we had lots of mold growth.  Should we put the lid back on at any point, or just let it be open to free air?  and should we add the moist towel back to it so it does not dry out too much?

Final question...  when it gets to an eatable stage, is there anything we need to do to eat it since there was a lot of mold growing on it?  eat just the middle, or does that mold die off, or is there a way to kill it?

Matt ... the cheeses shown in your photo are still too moist .. the rind has not dried off and the mold will work it's way into the rind producing off flavors .. you really need to harden these rinds off first .. the more moisture present the more mold ... at this point I would scrub these well w/ a brush and brine .. use edge of a sharp knife to scrape stubborn dark spots .. then dry off well for 2-3 days watch for the rind to darken and toughen up a bit before moving to the cave .. oil first and leave the lid off unless you see some cracking developing...

If the cheese was made w/ too much moisture ... they will not dry down and age well

... my cave runs 85% RH and after 2-3 months I only need to brush a bit of surface mold off every few months and coat w/ olive oil... I have included several photos below to guide you ... many people run caves as low as 75% rh for this style of ripening

Here is a pictorial of cheeses in various stages of aging for your reference
Cheese as they sit on the shelf in the cave
... note the round ones on top shelf which I have not touched for 5-6 months
.. they will clean up well also when ready
These cheeses need to be brushed
off every month or so
just before brushing down and oiling
cleaned off and oiled

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Thanks for joining our cheese making family, keep those stories & photos coming. We love to hear from you!

In Peace,
Ricki, the cheese queen

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