David B. Fankhauser, PhD
Professor of Biology and Chemistry
University of Cincinnati Clermont College
Batavia OH 45103
22 March 1999, 3 Jan 00
This page has been accessed Counter times since 26 July 2000.

There are two major benefits of waxing a finished wheel of cheese: it dramatically cuts down on the mold growth and it also prevents the cheese from dehydrating to the point of rock hardness. So long as the wax forms an intimate bond with the surface of the cheese, mold cannot grow in excess, nor can putrifactive bacteria get into the cheese.

Some have suggested plastic bags as an alternative to waxing, but in my experience, they provide ideal conditions for massive mold and/or bacterial growth. Fungus requires air and moisture to grow--exactly the conditions inside a plastic bag.

WAXING: I have a pie pan devoted to my waxing: melt paraffin (and non-scented candle stumps) and crayon stumps (red works best--some colors are suspensions of colored pigments which sink in the pan). I melt the wax over a low fire, roll the cheese several times thru it to build up the desired thickness on all sides. I dribble melted wax into pockets which didn't get sealed. Label the cheese with the date you waxed it (I use masking tape and magic marker), and store in the refrigerator for as many months as you desire. I then let the wax cool in the pan, and put it away with the rest of my cheese making utensils. I have some of the loveliest assortments of colors for my cheeses, depending on which crayons were added to the particular batch. Also, I presume that, since crayons are made for the use by children who would eat them, that they offer no danger when used in this way.


CRACKING: My biggest problem with waxing is that it occasionally cracks and flakes off after storage for six months, and mold can then begin to grow. In my experience, cracking occurs for two reasons: 1) too much water left in the curd as it was pressed (warming the curd a little more prior to pressing will help the curd contract more), and 2) the cheese dried out too much before it was waxed. Once the dreaded crevices develop, waxing is much more difficult.

Questions have been raised about "making" softer cheese wax by adding thinners to regular paraffin. I do not think this will work. "Official" cheese wax is a different petroleum fraction during refining than paraffin.

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