Author Topic: Aging in my refrigerator  (Read 1729 times)

Offline washwood

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Aging in my refrigerator
« on: November 10, 2012, 09:54:26 PM »
So I am just starting to make some cheese, and am fascinated by the process. Which is probably what has led me to make my first hard cheese without having a designated "cave" of any sort. I have made a simple, small jack cheese, brined and dried it, and not it resides in a good size plastic bin in my home refrigerator. I can maintain the humidity around 85 to 90, but the temperature ranges from 40 to 45 F. My question is, will I still be able to age a cheese at this temperature? If so, is it going to take years? I dont really have any other option at this point in time, but am curious none the less.

Thanks for the help.


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Offline MrsKK

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2012, 08:00:24 AM »
It will take longer to age, but it won't take years.  Before I had a dedicated cheese cave, I kept cheese in a cabinet in my basement over the coldest winter months, but had to put it in the regular fridge from late March through October.  I still got some pretty good cheese.

At that time, I didn't know about ripening containers, so you are ahead of my curve.

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Offline washwood

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2012, 10:26:49 AM »
Good to hear, thanks. I am pretty excited about the whole process. It took a bit of self control to not claim an entire shelf in the fridge  ::)

Offline Albert

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2012, 03:50:58 PM »
I'm at the same point: just starting make cheese, trying to start with a little jack (4 liters milk) and finding for a second hand wine cooler, so using the refrigerator for the moment. I'm enjoying my beginning.
But, in my case there is one thing that worries me: i'm using raw cow's milk from a farm of a friend of mine, so when the cheese will be aged, how can I know if the cheese is healt safety or a safety food?
I sanitize all my equipment, I do everything as clean as I can, but... I would like to be sure that my cheeses will be healt safe. Any suggests or reccomendations about it will be welcome.
I show you some pics of my first jack
I'm sorry if my english is not correct.
Best Regards from Catalonia

Offline Tiarella

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2012, 09:48:55 PM »
It took a bit of self control to not claim an entire shelf in the fridge  ::)

Oh, I predict you'll get over that self control pretty quickly!!!   ;)  I have a wine fridge for my cheese but because I have goats I have to make cheese often so soon I had no room.  Then I used an extra fridge at another person's place. Then I took over a basement extra room that is cold.  Then I took over the guest bedroom that can be kept cold.  It's out of control!!!!   ^-^


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Offline mightyMouse.tar.gz

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2012, 11:00:12 PM »
It took a bit of self control to not claim an entire shelf in the fridge  ::)

Oh, I predict you'll get over that self control pretty quickly!!!   ;)  I have a wine fridge for my cheese but because I have goats I have to make cheese often so soon I had no room.  Then I used an extra fridge at another person's place. Then I took over a basement extra room that is cold.  Then I took over the guest bedroom that can be kept cold.  It's out of control!!!!   ^-^

Yeah, after I get some bills paid off I am looking at getting another "cheese cave" myself. Mine is full. I have a few bottles of mead in there too though.

I was going to say. 40-45 really is not that bad. Many cheeses actually like to be aged around 45F. My suggestion is 2 fold:
1) Most refridgerators are inconsistent in their "coldness". That is to say they tend to have hot spots and cold spots. Get yourself a good thermometer and take some measurements, see if you can find some. Usually, the warmest part of the fridge is the racks on the door.
2) What I did before I got a dedicated cheese fridge (which by the way I keep at about 45-50F, not that much higher than you), I just looked at the recipes and stuck with cheeses that were lower temp friendly. I ended up with some pretty good cheeses that way.
// bad cheese exception handling
try { Cheese myCheese = new Gouda(); } catch (NastyCheeseException e) { throw new CultureContaminationException(); }

Offline Tiarella

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2012, 06:44:10 AM »
MightyMouse, I'm a bit surprised to read your comment that most cheeses like to age at about 45 because that is contrary to what most of the long term cheese makers are saying on the forum I believe.  It is also contrary to what I read in all the books.  I would think it is the exception to find a cheese that likes it that cold.  Mostly I read that long term final aging at that temp is not a disaster but will take much longer to achieve goals. 

I hope others will chime in on this topic.

Offline bbracken677

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2012, 08:37:19 AM »
I age my cheddars at 50-55F. The top shelf (the coolest) runs 48ish and is where I age camemberts and such.

Offline Spellogue

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2012, 10:30:32 AM »
I've been aging in the food fridge since I started making cheese last year as well.  Its not ideal, but you work with what you have until you can improve your set-up.  I've commandeered 1-1/2 shelves so far, and the natives are getting testy.  I am hoping to add a dedicated wine fridge in the spring, but I'll say I'm satisfied with my results so far.  Certainly better by a long shot than no home crafted cheeses at all.  I whole-heatedly encourage you to keep at it. 

The harder cheeses will take longer to age and I suspect the final results will always be a bit different than with traditional affinage.  Neverthelessless, the slower aging has worked to my advantage in having finished cheeses in March and April that would otherwise been eaten sooner.  Our main milk supply is seasonal with our goats. I like to think that I'm less likely to miss a cheese's peak.

I've found that bloomy rinded and washed rind cheeses tend to do well in the cooler temps.  The washed rinds take a bit longer to get going though. 

The biggest challenge I have is cross contamination of blue molds and geotrocum strains.  There are lots of crazy things growing on the fruits and veggies that revolve through the fridge.  The geos aren't so bad, but the wild blues usually have less than desirable flavors.  Some sort of ripening box is a must if the cheeses aren't waxed or sealed.  I use ziplock bags with some success when I'm short on boxes. Vinegar and salt scrubs and a deft hand with a toothpick help keep unwanted molds in check.  On a a firm, smooth surfaced cheese I sometimes let the wild things run, knowing I can remove the rind if I find it too strong.  I've got two larded cheeses aging now, and that seems to thwart wild molds well.  Molds that do grow on them come off easily and then fresh fats can be applied.  I use 3-5% brine to dab off blue from bloomy rinds, but that is usually a losing proposition since the rind surface is so fragile. Best to do what you can to keep them isolated from cross contamination from the get go.

You can use coolers and ice packs to simulate cave conditions too, but I haven't tried fussing with that yet.  Seems it will add a lot of daily maintenance that I can't take on presently.

Maybe Santa will bring me a vacuum sealer for Christmas. I'm afraid I've been too naughty for the wine fridge this year.  One can hope, though.
I can resist anything but temptation.      ~ Oscar Wilde

Offline Tiarella

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2012, 11:15:48 AM »
I didn't mean to imply that one can't or shouldn't use a regular refrigerator to age cheese but wanted to question the statement that "most cheeses like to be aged around 45 degrees" which I believe is a less accurate thought.  It is certainly true that there are some cheeses that like that but "most" liking that is not in line with what I've read.  That's all......didn't want someone aiming for 45 for everything if they had other options.  I'm hoping experts will chime in.......since I am not one.   :D


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Offline mightyMouse.tar.gz

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2012, 01:29:28 PM »
MightyMouse, I'm a bit surprised to read your comment that most cheeses like to age at about 45 because that is contrary to what most of the long term cheese makers are saying on the forum I believe.  It is also contrary to what I read in all the books.  I would think it is the exception to find a cheese that likes it that cold.  Mostly I read that long term final aging at that temp is not a disaster but will take much longer to achieve goals. 

I hope others will chime in on this topic.

Ack! Doh!
Oops, 50 is what I meant. I had in my mind that "45 is not that far from 50". 50 is what I shoot for with most of the cheeses I make. My cheese fridge generally hits around 50 but keeping it that warm consistently is not that easy.
// bad cheese exception handling
try { Cheese myCheese = new Gouda(); } catch (NastyCheeseException e) { throw new CultureContaminationException(); }

Offline bbracken677

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2012, 03:02:05 PM »
Often the adjustment knob has a "hidden" calibration screw that if you can find you can raise your fridge's high temp by a few degrees. I set mine at max and gained about 4 degrees.

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2012, 03:11:07 PM »
Often the adjustment knob has a "hidden" calibration screw that if you can find you can raise your fridge's high temp by a few degrees. I set mine at max and gained about 4 degrees.

Yep, that's what I did with mine! I set the calibration screw to the max and set the temp to the max. When I get a new (larger) cheese fridge I intend to get a controller for it. For right now, rigging my small cheese fridge has worked out rather well for me.
// bad cheese exception handling
try { Cheese myCheese = new Gouda(); } catch (NastyCheeseException e) { throw new CultureContaminationException(); }

Offline washwood

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2012, 04:35:59 PM »
I would love to raise the temp. a little more, but am concerned for the other foods in the fridge/freezer. Pushing the temperature to 45 I have not noticed much of a difference. However, the old fridge has a combined freezer/refrigerator adjustment and dropping it lower may start melting things out. Maybe I will push it slowly and monitor the effects.

As for the cross contamination, I am ready to fight any molds that start to appear. I have had one cheese (a jack) sitting in the box for only 4 days now and intend to start oiling tomorrow. How long do you usually expect a cheese to go before an invasion occurs?

Thanks again for the advise!

Offline mightyMouse.tar.gz

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Re: Aging in my refrigerator
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2012, 08:41:07 PM »
I would love to raise the temp. a little more, but am concerned for the other foods in the fridge/freezer. Pushing the temperature to 45 I have not noticed much of a difference. However, the old fridge has a combined freezer/refrigerator adjustment and dropping it lower may start melting things out. Maybe I will push it slowly and monitor the effects.

As for the cross contamination, I am ready to fight any molds that start to appear. I have had one cheese (a jack) sitting in the box for only 4 days now and intend to start oiling tomorrow. How long do you usually expect a cheese to go before an invasion occurs?

Thanks again for the advise!

If this is the fridge that you keep your regular food in, I would be careful. As you up the temperature you create an environment in which the microbes in the cheese can thrive and do their thing. You also potentially create an environment where microbes in your other food can thrive as well. Keep in mind, some of the microbes which make our cheese so dang good are the same microbes that make our vegetables so dang nasty. Example: Geotrichum candidum is often found munching on rotten fruits and vegetables.

Naturally of course, you know how quickly you go through your food supply.
// bad cheese exception handling
try { Cheese myCheese = new Gouda(); } catch (NastyCheeseException e) { throw new CultureContaminationException(); }