Buying food in large quantities, or bulk is a great way to save money. Cheese is not something we often think about buying in bulk, but preserving cheese for long-term storage stretches the grocery budget even farther.
In my area, cheese goes for $1.89 for an 8-ounce bar or $2.39/lb if you buy it in large horns. As you can see, it’s easily a money save to buy a large wheel. But, how to store over 30 pounds of cheese at once without a special cheese cave or lots of fridge space?
You can shred it and freeze it, slice it up and store in the fridge. For those of us without a lot of fridge and freezer space, waxing cheese for long-term storage is a great way to save money on cheese bought in bulk.
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Preparing to Wax Cheese
Before you start waxing cheese, you need to make sure your cheese is ready to go. After making the cheese, let it dry for a few days, preferably in a location in which it receives good air circulation. You will want to put a bit of cheesecloth over the cheese to keep dust off.
You may notice that your cheese develops a bit of mold at this time. This does not mean that you need to start over or get rid of the cheese – you just need to wash the cheese. You can make a brine or vinegar wash to do this, as both acidity and salt can stop mold from growing and remove the mold that may already be there.
After brining, you can simply wipe away the mold. Then, your cheese will be ready for waxing in approximately one hour.
Consider laying down some greaseproof paper as a surface to work on. This will prevent the waxed cheese from sticking to everything. Also have a bristled brush on hand so you can get wax into all the gaps, nooks, and crannies of your cheese.
One final tip? Consider sticking your cheese in the freezer for about fifteen minutes before you start to wax. This will help the wax set more quickly and give you a cleaner surface to work with.
Waxing cheese isn’t necessarily dangerous, perse, but you do need to be careful when working with the wax. Wear gloves and keep a close eye on the stove at all times. This is not an activity you can do while multitasking and trying to complete something else on your to-do list! Wax needs to reach extremely high temperatures of 240 degrees and if the wax gets hotter than that, it could reach a flashpoint of 400 degrees and start a fire.
Wax fires cannot be put out with water. You’ll have to have a dry chemical fire extinguisher on hand, so make sure you have this ready to go before you get started. Also, use a reliable candy thermometer to keep track of your wax temperatures. Work slowly and never leave your wax unattended.
When you’re ready to start working, break up your wax first. I recommend taking the plastic off before you cut it and then melting.
How to Wax Cheese: 4 Ways
Waxing cheese is one of the most efficient ways to protect cheese during the process of aging. It can save time and reduce the amount of moisture that is lost from your cheese. Of course, it can also reduce the likelihood of mold growth.
Method #1: Waxing Cheese With Low Heat
To wax cheese with low heat, you’ll need to work quickly as the low heat prevents many mold spores from being killed – this can still lead to mold development beneath the wax. The beauty of using low heat waxing is that you don’t need to use as much wax as with other methods. All you need is enough wax to dip your brush into and coat the cheese.
Because you’re working with wax that is heated at a lower temperature, it’s also a bit safer, too.
Start by heating the wax in a bowl by using the double boiler method. This simply involves putting the wax inside a bowl, which is put inside a pot filled with water and then placed on the stove.
You will want to heat the wax to around 194 degrees Fahrenheit, maximum. This video will show you how to wax cheese at low heat, if you’re looking for more guidance, too.
After you melt the cheese, you can put a piece of aluminum foil down between the cheese and the waxing pot. This will help to catch any drips.
Apply wax to the cheese with a bristle brush. Again, work as fast as you can so mold doesn’t appear. Use a lot of wax to apply a decent coat but don’t overdo it. Wax the top of the cheese and as much of the side as you can before you let the wax harden. Then you can flip the cheese and do the rest.
After you have applied a nice, thorough coat, repeat. This will create a solid protective layer. You may need to apply a third coat as well. After you finish waxing, let it harden.
Method #2: Waxing Cheese With Medium Heat
Waxing store-bought cheese is really fun to do once you try it.
First, you start with a hunk or a horn of cheese. Any hard cheese like cheddar, swiss, Munster, or farmer’s cheese will work for this. We have had great results with all of them.
Then, slice the cheese into hunks.
Meanwhile, melt the cheese wax in a double boiler over medium heat. You can get your cheese wax here. This is the same stuff I used.
One note; you will want to use a dish or pot you don’t care about ever using again. The wax is so hard to clean out of it. Trust me on this.
I put the hunks of cheese back in the fridge to chill again while this was melting, and then got to dipping. I followed the pattern of “dip for 3, hold for 30”
Each side got 3 dips total, and I also used a cheese wax brush to make sure that all the holes were filled. The idea is to make sure that no air or light gets to the cheese.
After the wax completely cooled and hardened, which took all of 1 minute, I added a label and used the brush to “wax on”.
Method #3: Waxing Cheese with High Heat
To wax cheese with high heat, you’ll need to get the wax extremely hot – hotter than boiling water, in fact. While the safety concern of mold growth is eliminated, a new safety concern is introduced – that of hot wax. You will want to be very careful and make sure you have a solid grip on the cheese before you dip it into the wax.
To wax cheese with this technique, heat it to around 224 to 236 degrees Fahenehit. Once it is up to temperature, you should turn off the stove. Put a bit of foil on your stovetop to catch errant drips of wax. Then you can begin the process of dipping the cheese. Do just the top of the cheese first and let it cool, then dip the bottom.
After you’ve dipped both the bottom and top surfaces and allowed them to cool, you can rotate to get half of the cheese in the wax and then allow that half to cool before repeating the process for the other side. You can add a second and third coating if necessary.
Allow the wax to harden, then store it in the container you used to melt the wax.
Method #4: Waxing Cheese: the Brushing Method
I mentioned earlier in this article that it can help to have a bristle brush on hand to get into the nooks and crannies of your cheese. You can also use this method to coat your entire wheel of cheese with wax.
To do this, melt your wax in a double boiler as before. Again, do not leave the wax unattended! Brush a couple of coats of wax onto the cheese, rather than dipping it into the wax as in the previous methods. Fill in any holes you find to remove air gaps.
It can help to first brush wax around the rounded sides of the wheel, then to brush the flat top and then the flat bottom. Make sure you let each side dry and then repeat the process. You can also use your brush to apply a paper label, if you so choose.
Cleaning Up After Waxing Cheese
While I truly enjoy the process of waxing cheese, I have to say I truly detest the clean-up afterward!
My tip to get around this? Use cheap pots and utensils so you don’t have to clean them afterward – you can just discard them. I know it’s a bit of a cheat, but I find it’s much easier than trying to scrub wax out of pots and pans.
However, if you’ve already begun the process of waxing cheese, you can just use some hot water to melt the wax and then wipe it up with paper towels before throwing it out. You can then use a solvent, like turpentine, to get the remainder of the wax out.
How to Store Waxed Cheese
It is most important to store waxed cheese in a cool, dry place. I use my upstairs closet right now because the heat in the house doesn’t get up there much and it’s pretty dry. In the summer, I move this to the basement.
Ideally, your cheese should be stored somewhere in which temperatures are around 52 to 56 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is around 85%. This will help you keep your cheese fresh and free from mold while it’s aging. Every week, turn the cheese and make sure mold hasn’t started to grow beneath the wax.
If mold does appear, this is likely because the surface was not heated hot enough or a tiny pinhole was left in the wax that allowed mold to enter. Remove the wax as soon as you find it, either by scraping or brushing it from the surface. Then, soak a cloth in saturated brine, rub down the cheese, and let it dry before re-waxing it.
To eat the cheese, simply peel the wax off and enjoy. The wax can be re-melted and used again and again. Having been waxed does not change the taste of the cheese to me at all. Some may notice it being a bit “stronger” due to the aging process, but that hasn’t been enough to deter me from waxing it, nor hubby eating it.
Some questions that arise when you wax cheese:
How long will waxed cheese last?
As for how long will waxed cheese last, I have had it stored and tasty for up to 6 months with no problem. You will want to make sure to rotate your cheese to make sure to use the older first.
Does waxed cheese need to be refrigerated?
It does NOT need to be refrigerated. It CAN be stored on a cool, dry pantry shelf out of direct sunlight.
Do I have to use red cheese wax?
How do you store bulk bought cheese? Will you try to wax cheese for long term storage? Be sure to pin this to your favorite board for later!
updated 12/10/2020 by Rebekah Pierce
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.