Cheese caves have been used for centuries to age and store many types of cheese, from young goat's milk chèvre to 24-month aged Parmigiano-reggiano. Although traditional caves are built underground, it's easy to replicate a cheese cave in your own home. This can be done in your refrigerator or a cool spot in your house, such as a basement or cellar. The key to a successful cave is consistent temperature and humidity to ensure proper ripening and storage for the cheese.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Cool spot in your refrigerator or basement
- Plastic containers large enough to fit the cheese, with room to spare
- Paper towels or sponges
- Small baking racks (only needed if the cheese needs to drain)
Locate the warmest spot in your refrigerator, such as the vegetable drawer. The ideal temperature for ageing cheese is 7.22 to 12.7 degrees C. (If your refrigerator is much colder than this range, skip to Section 2 to find out how to create a cave in a cool spot in your home.) Clear a space to fit the plastic containers that will house your cheese.
Add small baking racks to the plastic containers if you are ageing a cheese that needs to be drained, like chèvre or saint maure.
Put the cheese into plastic containers. Keep similar cheeses together and be sure to leave enough room in the container for the cheese to breathe. Jim Wallace at http://www.cheesemaking.com suggests a ratio of 40% cheese to 60% empty space in the container
Wet a paper towel or small sponge and put it in the corner of the container, not touching the cheese. This will add humidity to the environment. The optimal humidity level is approximately 90%. It will take some trial and error to determine how much moisture you'll need, but keep the sponge or paper towel damp, not soaking wet.
Monitor the cheese daily and turn or scrape off mould as needed. Open the containers frequently to encourage air circulation.
Locate a cool spot in your home, such as a closet in the basement or cellar. The temperature should be between 7.22 and 12.7 degrees C. This can be a shelf or even an old cube refrigerator or other insulated container.
Follow the steps in Section 1 to assemble plastic containers for the cheese.
If you're using an old refrigerator or other container, you may be able to put the cheese on trays and use a pan of water to regulate the humidity in the entire container. Be sure to sanitise the containers before adding cheese.
Tips and warnings
- Cheese ageing can take time to perfect. If your cheese appears too wet and slimy, use less moisture on the paper towel or sponge.
- The cheese may spoil if the environment becomes too warm. Take caution when using a basement or cool spot during warm months and always check to make sure the temperature is in the optimal range.
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