A few people have written in to ask for more information about bandaging cheese.
We bandage cheese at two stages: either when they come straight out of the press or when they have matured for a little while in vac packs.
Without wishing to sound pretentious, I think that when cheese is bandaged it has a much greater complexity of flavours, somehow, more delicate. I say this because back in January 2012, as an experiment, Lydia bandaged some sheep cheese that we made on 25th March 2011. A few weeks ago, we did a cheese tasting, comparing the matured, vac packed version that was destined to be waxed. It was sweet, nutty and creamy, almost fudge like in texture. The bandaged, natural rinded version was a lot firmer as you would expect, drier but more delicate with different flavours all together. It was extremely interesting. We all preferred the natural rinded one.
We buy our cloths from A&I Holmes who are based at Ashton-under-Lyme in Lancashire, tel: 0161 3431911 – ask for Helen. These just come as flat round white cotton discs and the binders are folded in half. You would need to measure your cheese to get the right dimensions. A & I Holmes cut to size for their customers. We buy about 1,000 at a time. If ours are the same dimensions as the ones you need, we would happily sell you smaller quantities.
We make up a glue solution with cold water from some powder called Walocell which we bought from Bedfordshire based Food Ingredient Technology Ltd, tel: 01767 677666. We had to buy a 25kg bag, so again, if you would like to buy small quantities, let us know and we can sell you small amounts in the post. It took me months before I could track down a food grade glue manufacturer, so am happy to pass it on.
Each of us has different ways of binding cheeses. Some spread glue on the cheese and wrap the cloth caps around the top and bottom and the middle strip goes on afterwards. Some of us spread glue on the cotton cloth and then place that on the cheese. Either way, the secret is not to spread too much glue on the cheese to avoid it becoming wet.
Other cheese makers I know spread butter or lard on the cheese or cloths with a
clean paint brush. This also works and can impart another flavour.
Then, once the cheeses are dry, they are gently placed in the maturing room for about three months at a temperature of 8-10 oC with a high relative humidity. You can buy cheap thermometers that give both temperature and relative humidity. You can spray mist in the air or place small bowls with hot water at the bottom – whatever it takes to get that temperature and humidity to the right level. The big guys, of course have proper temperature and humidity control units in their
maturing rooms, but we are so small scale, we don’t have the funds for this plus we find our low tech way works and hopefully adds some character to the cheese.
Cloth bound cheeses are quite high maintenance in that they really do need to be rubbed and turned at least twice a week to ensure an even and thin growth of rind. This is something that we schedule in the diary each week, fitting in cheese making, mad waxing, packing up orders and visitors around it. If you follow this regime and are thorough about cleaning your maturing rooms, you should hopefully not get the dreaded cheese mite.
Signs that your cloth bound cheeses are not going well:
1) Cheeses are wet: dry them with a clean, sanitised towel and raise the humidity, moving the source of humidity away from the cheese, it could be too close and check your maturing room not too cold
2) Thick rind developing that is too thick: you are not rubbing, turning them and distributing the mould growth well enough or maybe not often enough, increase the humidity and check your maturing room is not too warm
3) Taking a long time to develop a rind: check your temperature and humidity. You should find that once they start, it doesn’t take too long for the rind to develop all over providing you look after them. Thick and uneven rinds are a no-no!
4) Cheese mite: evidenced by small brownish specs that seem to migrate – step up your cleaning and hygiene schedules; remove all cheeses, steam clean them and the maturing room with clean tools
If anyone has any other tips they would like me to add, just send me an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org