How to Wax Cheese

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Before I tell you how to wax cheese, let me tell you why. Waxing cuts down on mold and putrefying bacteria’s access to cheese while it ages, and it also prevents cheese from drying out too much. Both good things.

But to be honest, I put off trying waxing as long as I could simply because I didn’t want to use wax. And until we had a cow, we could keep up with the cheeses I made from our goat’s milk — so no need to wax or put up cheese for off-season.

Fast forward to now. Getting 4 to 5 gallons of milk a day means I make alot of cheese. One-third of my fridge is filled with aging wheels and quarter-wheels of mostly cheddar (our favorite). To prevent molding and/or drying out, I could move them to the freezer, but that presents three problems: 1) The freezer is pretty full already; 2) The cheeses won’t age or develop flavor in a frozen state; and 3) I’d like to learn methods that don’t rely on refrigeration or freezing at all.

So… learn to wax, I must. And I did! My good friend Jerri from Homesteader Supply coached me for my first waxing. Over the telephone, she gave me her best tips (the dipping method, below). I even turned on the video camera and captured that first time waxing on film.

eCourse members, see bonus lesson 16 in the Cultured Dairy and Basic Cheese eCourse for the bonus video and print tutorial!

I have waxed cheese more than a few times now — and I love it. I think the cheese turns out so pretty. And the waxing works! My four-week old+ cheddar cheese, staying moist and mold-free, is out of this world!

Method: Waxing Cheese

You can dip the cheese in wax, or you can brush the wax on your cheese. You need more melted wax for the dipping method — to ensure it is deep enough for the cheese to be submerged sufficiently. I tried brushing as well. I found that the dipping method yielded prettier cheese, yet I was limited in what sizes of cheese I could use by the size of the melted wax container and whether the wax was deep enough. So there are pros and cons with both — choose what works best for YOU.

What You Need

  • cheese with a dry rind* — either a complete wheel or cut into quarters
  • cheese wax** — buy from Cultures for Health or Homesteader Supply
  • cheese brush — a natural bristle brush (optional)
  • a double-boiler set up — use something for the wax that you don’t mind getting waxy, like an old pot or coffee can
  • wax paper
  • tongs (optional)
  • masking tape and Sharpie for labeling

*Ideally, allow cheese to form a dry, yellowish rind by being left uncovered and on a rack in cool storage for a few weeks. I do this overnight in my kitchen, on cooler nights.

**According to Cultures for Health, 1 pound of wax will do 12 to 20 cheeses if brushing on, but you’ll need to start with a few pounds of wax for dipping to ensure sufficient depth. Store wax in cool place, away from any high heat. Keeps indefinitely.

The Dipping Method

Melt wax in a double boiler so that it is not directly over the heat source. Do not leave unattended; wax explodes at high temperatures. Choose a container for the wax that will fit your desired sizes of cheese. An old coffee can is an ideal size if cutting the cheese wheel into quarters.

Grasping one corner of the cheese with your hands (careful!) or the tongs, dip the rest of the cheese into the wax. One thin coat is better than a thick coat. Hold in the air for 10 seconds or so for the wax to harden. Set down on wax paper. Repeat for other pieces of cheese. Be sure to fill up any air spaces to prevent mold growth.

Grasp the original piece of cheese and dip the unwaxed end. One thin coat is better than a thick coat. Hold in the air for 10 seconds or so for the wax to harden. Set down on wax paper. Repeat for other pieces of cheese.

Repeat both steps to add a second coat of wax to all pieces of cheese. Label cheese with type and date. Use masking tape or a piece of paper. The piece of paper can brushed into place with a thin coating of wax with a wax brush.

Store cheese in a cool location (such as refrigerator or cold cellar) for the duration of the aging and storage. To eat cheese, peel off wax. Save it and strain it through cheesecloth to reuse over and over again.

The Brushing Method

Melt wax in a double boiler so that it is not directly over the heat source. Do not leave unattended; wax explodes at high temperatures.

Brush two coats of wax onto the cheese, filling any holes to prevent air gaps. Robin P. (eCourse member) shared her method with me: brush wax all the way around the rounded side of the wheel, then brush the flat top, then brush the flat bottom. Allow for drying times in between. Then repeat over all. Finally, brush on a paper label (containing type of cheese and date) with a thin application of wax.

Store cheese in a cool location (such as refrigerator or cold cellar) for the duration of the aging and storage. To eat cheese, peel off wax. Save it and strain it through cheesecloth to reuse over and over again.

Have you waxed cheese? Do you prefer dipping, brushing, or… ? Any tips to share?

eCourse members — remember, you can log in and watch the video on waxing cheese, a bonus lesson in the Cultured Dairy & Basic Cheese eCourse!

I shared this post with the Real Food Emergency Prep Blog Carnival and Simple Lives Thursday.

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Comments

    • says

      Marg — Paraffin wax is harder and tends to crack; cheese wax is more flexible. I wouldn’t recommend paraffin wax. It is more expensive to buy cheese wax but as you can use it again and again and again, I’d consider it a good investment. :)

  1. Tracy Willans says

    It says the cheese wax is a mix of parafin and microcrystaline wax, both highly unnatural, why can’t I use beeswax. There must have once been a more natural way.

    • says

      Tracy — You’re right, it is not the most natural solution. If you find something better, please let me know! At the moment I’m faced with losing quantities of cheese to mold or using wax. I held off on wax for a long time because of this very thing.

      I have talked with Jerri at Homesteader Supply about using olive oil in place of wax. You brush it on each day. She’s trying it out as an alternative to wax. I haven’t been able to put that to the test because I don’t have a good place to put the cheese with airflow and not stacked up on top of each other as they are now in my fridge.

  2. says

    I think that your cheese looks simply stunning in the red wax! So beautiful!

    Hopefully, I will someday have your problem of too much cheese! :-)

  3. says

    A friend and I just waxed cheese for the first time, to do a photo essay for our local sustainability group, Essential Stuff Project in Bigfork MT (essentialstuff.org).

    We used beeswax because it is more sustainable than paraffin or cheesewax (which contains paraffin), and also less toxic than paraffin, which is made from petroleum. Beeswax is more expensive but if you have bees, you can collect your own! You can also reuse beeswax by melting it down and straining it through buttermuslin or fine cheesecloth.

    We didn’t color our wax; beeswax is a beautiful light gold color on the cheese.

    We also melted our wax in a pie pan in the oven. This worked great. You can view our photo essay at http://essentialstuff.org/index.php/2011/06/06/Cat/cheese-making-waxing-the-round/.

    • 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 for future reference. Thanks!

    • karen yong says

      I just used 1lb of beeswax so I can buy cheese in bulk for long term storage. Here’s my story; I waxed my colby cheese in the beeswax using the dipping method. The cheese has been aged in a linen closet since we live in San Diego and don’t have a cellar. It was the coolest place in the house. Today I tried my first block and to my dissmay the cheese tasted like the wax! The flavor of the wax was very overpowering and has ruined my efforts. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. My friend suggested it could have been due to my cheese was warm (a hot day) and sweating.

      I was having such fun and looking forward to making it a tradition!
      Thanks so much for the inspiration!!
      Karen
      P.S. I have now ordered the red wax from New England Cheesemaker Supply.

    • Tracy says

      Catherine, this is a great article and I have pinned it to my Pinterest so that I can refer back to it later. Thank you!

  4. says

    What an interesting post. I have never made my own cheese, but yours looks just beautiful! I often buy cheese from independent producers and it is usually waxed – it really does make a difference to how well it keeps.

  5. says

    I use the dipping method. I rub the outside of the cheese with raw apple cider vinegar first (to discourage mold) and then proceed just like you described. It does a very good job. I have one cheese left from last year that we are eating, and just made my first batch for this year yesterday. The one we are eating was made in September and in spite of the waxing, had considerable mold growing under the wax. I trimmed all of that off and the cheese is delicious! It tastes a bit like blue cheese.

    • says

      Yolanda — Oh, good idea to use the ACV prior to the wax. I am so glad to hear that your cheese does so well waxed for that length of time.

  6. MommySetFree (Pamela) says

    Wardee,
    This is so inspiring! It’s “on my list”. :-) A couple questions for you:
    Do you know if their is something special about “cheese wax”? Do you know what it is made of and if Bee’s wax works? Have you shared your Cheddar recipe yet? :-)

    Blessings, pamela

  7. says

    Oops…next time I will read the other comments before I ask a question. :-) I think the questions were answered above (what an amazing group of ladies!). Except of course – I am still fishing for your Chaddar recipe. :-)

  8. says

    Great post, Wardee and your cheeses are gorgeous! I’ve held of on waxing as well and have been shrink wrapping instead. That’s not a sustainable solution though – I love the idea of using beeswax as we are getting bees next spring. And goats. For now I’m living vicariously through you. I can’t believe you have a cow now!
    xo, Annette

  9. says

    I have done both the brushing and the dipping. The dipping worked best for me, but I was dipping 4 lbs. rounds of cheese. As summer comes around and the humidity goes up, the cheese wax (first side dipped) gets a bit slippery. After making several messes by splashing wax, I tried something different. I bought mini paint rollers. I roll the cheese in several thin layers on the flat sides. I then stick the rounded edge in the pot and twirl. This has worked well for me.

    I am still trying to figure out a good “cheese cave” for my cheeses. They say that a very humid area about 50° is the best. I do have a small fridge I use for eggs that I was using. I put a bowl of water in the bottom. However, it was not much use for anything else because of the higher temperature and I ended up with so much cheese, I had no more room for eggs. Our cow has been dry since before Christmas. We are on one round of cheese and have 2 more left. :)

  10. Kathy says

    Why can’t you use an electric deep cooker to heat the wax? If you have one with temp control that would seem to be much easier and safer than the double boiler method. Trying to keep the wax at the right temp using the old method and a thermometer can be like juggling to many balls in the air. Wax can explode or burst into flames if it gets too hot so why not use a temp controlled electric cooker? Maybe I am missing something but this seems to be a great way. You can buy the smaller cookers cheap these days and you could just let the wax cool, cover the cooker and store for next time. If there is a reason this should not be done please let me know. Thanks

    • says

      Kathy — I think that would be fine, provided you had an extra one to devote to it permanently. But really, the double boiler method is not hard. You get it up to temp, take it off the heat and can use the wax for a good while before it is too cool to work well. Heat up a bit more and repeat.

    • connie jo says

      Using a smaller crock pot sounds like a good way to melt the cheese wax. You can find them used on craig’s list at a very reasonable price. I read online that a small wine cooling refrigerator makes a good cheese cave because you can adjust the temperature for it easily. Those can be found on craig’s list as well. I haven’t made cheese yet but I am getting close to being able to buy a press and supplies to do it. I can hardly wait! I really appreciate learning from everyone. I am blessed to have acess to good raw cow and goat milk and am anxious to get some first hand experience.

  11. Nicole says

    I have just made my first cheddar and am about to wax. I cut mine into quarters like yours, but they now have lots of cracks in them after drying… is it okay to wax with the cracks. I’ll wipe it all down with vinegar first so prevent mold, but I just worry about the cracks. I suppose I should make sure the cracks fill with the wax so that it’s all more “airtight”? I’ve also made a small parmesan, but can’t get my humidity up enough to age, so I’ve read that you can wax the parmesan if it’s under 2 lb…. Any advice on both issues would be happily accepted!

    • says

      Fill in the cracks with wax, yes. Make sure to rinse out the cracks with your vinegar first.

      I’m sorry but I don’t know anything about parmesan. :(

  12. kerryn says

    Hi,
    As prices soar on the grocery bill I tend to buy in bulk when an item in the supermarket is on a good offer, as for cheese, I’m a dairy bandit and most of my cooking has cheese ‘or’ cream in them, I’ve been reading up on waxing and would like to start perhaps to save a few pennies, I’ve read that if cheese are waxed it could last 25 years + but I’ve looked in the supermarket at the cheeses that have been waxed and they only have a shelf life the same as vacuum sealed, would you have any idea just out of curiosity what cheese would last this long? Thankyou for all the information above really enjoyed the read and took some information away with me …

  13. Tracy says

    I was so excited when I read that you got your cheese wax from your good friend Jerri at Homesteaders Supply that I jumped straight down here to comment! I will be getting some cheese wax from her tomorrow and she lives very close to me so I’m going there in person!!! I will tell her I read this article.
    I just made almond cheese because we cannot have dairy and it is a very soft and creamy cheese. I would love to be able to wax them though because I also want to know how to preserve food long term and without refrigeration.
    Do you have any suggestions for me on how to coat really soft cheese with wax? Maybe I should freeze it first then coat it?
    Thank you for your information. Now, I will go back and finish reading everything else you and others have written!

  14. boxermom says

    I used cheese wax last summer when I made my first cheese. My problem was that I could taste the petroleum. YUK! This year, I’m going to try lard and cheese cloth to wrap my cheese.

  15. Darla white says

    I love your posts. :-) my question is–Can you wax store bought cheeses? Usually I can find them on sale here and there. If you “can” wax them–how long will store bought cheeses they last after waxing and in the fridge ? Or do they have too many preservatives in them already to even try it?

  16. Patti says

    I waxed my first try at a full cheddar about 3 weeks ago and now awaiting it’s aging to find out how it tastes. I made farmhouse cheddar yesterday and will wax it this evening and test in about a month. In between time, we have tried the Queso Fresco and so far it’s a hit…low aging, no waxing…a good “go to” cheese in our opinion! Even the picky eaters in the extended family liked it! My daughter had an extra small crock pot bowl she gave me that I use in a pan of water to melt the wax, then I just put the lid on and store the wax right in the same pot for the next round.

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