Where can I age my cheese?
1. Use an Existing Refrigerator
You can use your existing refrigerator, but unfortunately it is 10 - 15 degrees cooler then a cave and it has a tendency to suck the moisture out of anything that is unprotected. To protect the cheese, place it in the warmest part of the refrigerator. To keep it from drying out, you will need an airtight container. The size of the container should be much larger than the cheese - 40% cheese and 60% empty space (air). You can control the humidity of the air inside the container by using a wet paper towel, crumpled up in a ball and placed in a corner of the container.
2. Modify an Old Refrigerator
You can modify an old refrigerator. The temperature can be easily controlled with a regulator like our ThermoStar Digital Temperature Controller Product # 41264. Plug it in and set it to 52-55F. The humidity can be controlled by simply using a pan of water with a partial cover. By simply adjusting the cover opening, you should be able to control the amount of humidity. At times you may need to seriously increase the amount of moisture in the box, especially when starting out. In this case, you may need to spray the inside with sterile water or provide a damp towel. You will also notice that as the seasons change, you will have abrupt changes in the moisture level. The amount of cheese inside the cave will also affect the amount of moisture needed because there is less of a problem when it is filled with moist cheeses.
3. Find Another Cool Space
You can also find a cool space in the cellar where the cheese can be protected in a cabinet or in covered plastic boxes. This cool cellar will do a pretty good job, with stable temperatures during most of the year. However, controlling the humidity will still be a bit of a challenge. Plastic boxes with lids will work well to conserve moisture. Simply use a wet sponge or paper towel to maintain the moisture needed. The paper towel or sponge should not be dripping wet. The object is to introduce moisture to the air and not to leave the bottom of your container with standing water. The paper towel should not be touching the cheese. (The air should be damp, not the cheese.) If you are also using plastic boxes for draining your soft ripened cheese, make sure you keep clearing the draining whey so the cheese is not in contact with it. If you then use the box for drying, remove the top and use a fan to provide gentle air movement. When using the plastic boxes, several considerations are important. The first is not to let too much moisture build up inside on the cover and drip onto the cheese. If you see moisture condensing on the lid or collecting in the bottom, make sure you wipe it off when turning the cheese. You do not want a wet surface to develop or mold may become a serious problem. Also, when using these for soft ripened and high moisture cheeses that continue to drain for several days, pay close attention to the moisture build up. Mats should also be used in these boxes to keep the cheese off of the bottom surface to allow them to breathe and keep away from excessive moisture. Since the volume of air in these boxes is somewhat limited, they should be opened frequently to exchange the gases produced by ripening for fresh air. This is especially important with higher moisture young cheeses.