To keep cheese from drying out and to retard the growth of mold during the aging process, cheese must be waxed using cheese wax.
When we made our first cheddar, we thought cheese wax was expensive so we’d just use paraffin. Well, paraffin wax does not work. It is stiff and cracks when it cools allowing air and mold causing bacteria to come in contact with the aging cheese. Cheese wax is made specifically to coat cheese. It is more pliable and does not easily crack.
Make sure the cheese has had time to air dry and the surface of the cheese is not damp. Then cool the cheese you are preparing to wax for several hours in the refrigerator so the wax will adhere better. Melt the wax in a crock pot or a double boiler on a stove with a vented hood fan. Wax vapors are highly flammable, so caution should be used. The wax should be melted until clear. Then turn off the heat prior to waxing. If the wax becomes too hot, it can cause oils in the cheese to come to the surface preventing the wax from forming a seal.
To help guard against mold formation, do not over handle the cheese with your bare hands. Try using vinyl or latex gloves. When the wax is ready, quickly dip the block of cheese half way into the wax. Allow the wax to dry slightly and dip the other half of the block. The wax is quite slippery, so use caution in the dipping process. It is better to do two or three thin coats rather than one thick coat. Allow the wax to dry between coats.
The wax may also be applied using a natural bristle brush to coat the cheese working on one surface of the cheese at a time. If you decide to use the brush method, a boar’s hair brush is recommended for the smoothest application. Allow the wax to dry before applying subsequent coats.
The wax should form a bond with the cheese, sealing the cheese including any holes or crevices. This protects the cheese from mold. Should a bit of mold growth appear on the surface, trim it one inch around the mold, before eating. The mold will not hurt the cheese. The wax also locks the natural moisture of the cheese in, preventing it from drying out and hardening.
Label the cheese, type and date, before the last dipping so that the label is embedded within the wax and will not fall off. I use a self adhesive sticker and a permanent marker.
After waxing, cheese is ready to age. It should be stored in a cool room. Do not seal the cheese in additional containers as the cheese requires air circulation.
Cheese wax can be reused. So save the wax, melt it in a double boiler and strain it through butter muslin to remove any debris left from prior use. You will need approximately three pounds of wax to cover ten pounds of cheese.