Author Topic: Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses  (Read 15783 times)

Offline John (CH)

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Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« on: June 06, 2008, 08:37:45 AM »
For aged cheeses, after making and drying the next stage is affinage, the "art of ripening a cheese to maturity by monitoring all aspects to assure proper development of aroma, flavour, appearance, and texture". This maturing or ripening is where the cultures and enzymes etc in cheese do their work, thus a very important cheese making stage.

My understanding, from a scientific perspective, is that the maturing stage parameters are:
  • Time: Either 1 week to many months, you control, depending on will power ;D.
  • Temperature: Normally cooler cave type ~55 F/10 C, need basement or fridge, or naturally cool climate.
  • Humidity: Normally 80-85% but hard to control over long term leading to possible molds if too humid and airborne bacteria or cracking from drying out, thus reason for waxing or making natural rind from brine bath or oiled rind or cloth wrapped and larded.
  • Pressure: Normally not an issue and normally around 1 atmosphere, unless you are way up a mountain.

The parameter I want to talk about here is a key one, humidity. Over the millenium of cheese making, humidity control has been implemented via natural, washed or brine bathed rinds, coatings and more recently, waxes. I was in a store looking at cheese ;D that was a waxed wheel but had been cut into retail sized wedges and then vacuum sealed in thick clear plastic. This wrap was done to ensure that it continues to mature on the shelf while maintaining it's humidity and clear so that presentable to customers.

This got me thinking about coatings and waxes in cheese making that are fiddly and don't let you see what's going on inside, ie if mold develops and 21st century plastic vacuum bag sealers! The most popular and extensive brand appears to be FoodSaver, but their machines cost USD100+ and permanently vacuum bag seal the contents with a roll of tubed plastic. Another well reviewed but very cheap brand is new in late 2007 Reynolds Handi-Vac using resealable zip-lock type heavy freezer bags. Last night I went and bought one and bags. OK, a zip lock bag is definately not artisan old world, but it provides a very tight humidity barrier like wax plus it has the advantages of being:
  • Cheap: I bought unit for USD10 plus box of fourteen 1 quart bags for USD3 and box of nine 1 US gallon for USD3 at US Walmart, and bags are re-usable.
  • Quick: Just pop in bag, seal, and pump air out.
  • Visability: Bag is see through.
  • Access: Can open zip-lock and view and taste maturing cheese and re-seal and re-remove air.

I'll let you know how it works out . . .
« Last Edit: June 07, 2008, 06:04:42 AM by Cheese Head »


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Offline DaggerDoggie

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Re: Affineur & Maturing Cheeses
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2008, 06:57:29 PM »
I would think it would be very handy...particularly for us new cheese makers who want to try our cheese, yet find it is not quite ready and would like to age it a little longer.

Offline reg

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Re: Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2008, 06:20:35 AM »
thanks for the post CH. i have often thought about vac packing but ....

since i already have a Foodsaver model #2460 i may give it a try also. Question, how would you know what the humidity is inside the vac bag ?

reg
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Offline John (CH)

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Re: Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2008, 09:26:13 AM »
reg, good point, you wouldn't, but don't when waxing to seal the cheese or when all the stores that plastic vacuum shrink wrap their cheese for sale. I think you could only do this liek waxing after a few days (depending on your humidity) when the cheese is dry.

Offline reg

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Re: Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2008, 07:21:40 AM »
well i guess thats true CH. we would have no way of knowing what the humidity would be either waxed or shrink wapped. both methods are performing the same duties so i can't see why vac packing would not work on some cheeses

is it possible we are over thinking or getting confused about the way some cheeses are aged ? does it depend on what type of cheese we are making, ie:hard rinded cheese like Parm with its natural rinds vs Gouda, a waxed cheese with a soft or no rind.

i read about some cheeses being aged naturally, brushed one or two times a week and turned regularly. apparently this brushing has a lot to do with how the wheel breathes and affects the final taste. seems like the finishing or affinage as they call it is much more important in the final outcome of the cheese than the processing itself.

everyday we wake up in the morning and learn something new. now if i could only remember it all ;-)
reg


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Offline John (CH)

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Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2008, 07:32:35 AM »
Good points, agree, this is only really a modern replacement method for waxed cheeses as it performs the same function.

DaggerDoggie has found a very cheap (in USA) humidity gage which I assume one could seal inside the bag beside the cheese, giving additional maturing data that the Affineurs before us using wax couldn't have done.

FYI I think the 1 US quart bags will only be big enough for 1 US gallon/1 lb/0.5 kg hard cheeses, not sure about 1 US gallon bags. Currently for this brand machine that's the biggest. Maybe with your more professional FoodSaver brand you could seal larger pressed cheeses.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2008, 10:32:08 AM by Cheese Head »

Offline reg

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Re: Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2008, 07:53:45 AM »
the more i think about the vac pack method the more i like it especially for the Gouda. we are getting away for a few days and i think before we go i will vac pack the Gouda and the 8" wheel of the Alpine style cheese. this way we will be able to see the differences if any at a later date when we cut them

thanks CH
reg

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Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2008, 06:39:50 PM »
Email below and pictures sent in by reg:

Hi CH. These are what the vac packed cheeses looked like. Will be keeping a close eye on them over the next while to make sure everything is going along ok.

Offline John (CH)

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Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2008, 07:12:10 PM »
Reg, congrats on being the vacuum bag guinea pig, you beat me to it!

I believe these are the cheeses in the Cheese Making - Records board that you olive oiled to make a rind, they are still looking good ;D! Keep us updated on how they mature and if any mould develops inside in which case presumably too high a humidity inside before sealing?

Now that you have 4 cheeses aging, are you taking a rest or start a new cheese and thread in that board ;)? I'm going to make hard cheese this Friday . . .
« Last Edit: June 10, 2008, 07:43:11 PM by Cheese Head »

Offline reg

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Re: Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2008, 06:56:23 AM »
morning CH. this vac pac aging will be interesting no question about it. will see what the outcome brings in three or four weeks. i know what the Alpine cheeses tasted like before so this will be a good experiment. another good experiment is the wine washed rind that i'm doing on the one 4" wheel of Alpine. it smells amazing at this point, can't wait to try it in another few weeks. have been brushing and bathing each week but think i may start to do this every three or four days

did not make anything this week but will be getting right back at it next week. what i will make i'm really not sure yet. my plan was to stay with only one or two cheeses until they were perfected so to speak.

reg



 
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Offline John (CH)

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Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2008, 07:30:15 AM »
OK Reg, in 1-2 days I will need to seal my wine soaked cheeses, the question is how?

It's been one week since you sealed some of your cheeses in vacuum bags, the beauty being that you can see the contents. So after 1 week how do they look, still happy or mould appearing inside or less vacuum from gas generate by the fermentation process inside the cheese?

Also, do you recommend olive oiling them before vacuum bag sealing or redundant sealing methods?

Offline reg

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Re: Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2008, 09:40:01 AM »
no sign of anything in the vac pac except the cheese lol. for the wine bathed cheese i simply wiped it down with more wine then vac pac'd. i would guess that the cheese is aging normally and that the bacteria in the starter is going about it's business presearving and flavouring the inside of the wheel. now having said that its possible that i'm out in left field as i have absolutely no experience with this method. time and taste will tell i guess

it is possible that i may cut into the 8" wheel of Alpine to test it in a week or so. that is the wheel i made with the 2% milk so that in itself will be interesting. it does feel firmer than the others. if the taste is ok i will just reseal the balance and continue aging

reg
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Offline John (CH)

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Re: Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2008, 11:21:25 AM »
Thanks Reg, so far two thumbs up, I'll follow your lead and vacuum bag mine using the handy-dandy vacuum bag sealer info posted at start of this thread.

Offline John (CH)

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Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2008, 04:13:45 PM »
Done, 3 cheeses sealed for their long (hopefully :D) ripening voyage!

Only two sizes of bags currently made, the small one barely fit my 1.5 USG > ~1.5 lb/0.7 kg wine bathed Gouda's. The large one barely fit my 3 US gallon > 3 lb/1.4 kg Gouda.

Too 5 minutes to get the knack of using the pump, it has a small o-ring seal for where it touches the bag. To get it to seal you need to push the o-ring of the pump against the plastic bag against a flat surface, too hard and it selas against the back plastic side of bag, too light and it doesn't get seal.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2008, 04:20:33 PM by Cheese Head »

Offline John (CH)

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Re: Vacuum Bags Instead Of Wax For Aging Hard Cheeses
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2008, 06:09:27 AM »
Reg, how did your vacuum bag sealing cheeses for aging work out in the longer run?

Mine developed water between the bag and cheese, presumably as I hadn't dried my cheese enough before sealing.