Most cheesemakers prefer to protect their cheese with wax because it is a simple, affordable, and time-proven method of creating positive results.
Before cheesemakers knew that wax could preserve their products, bandaging was considered the best practice of the industry. It is still a technique used for some varieties when wax coloration is undesirable on the finished item.
When you bandage cheese for preservation, you must wrap it in cheesecloth. Once the surface is entirely protected, a fat-based ingredient (typically lard) provides the sealed layer that protects against moisture and cross-contamination.
Benefits of Using the Bandaging Method
The bandaging method makes homemade cheese look like it was professionally made. Although the preservation method is a lot messier than wax or vacuum sealing, the aesthetic appeal is worth the effort.
Most home cheesemakers find that bandaged cheese tends to have a better taste and texture compared to the other preservation methods. The cheesecloth and lard contribute to the natural ripening process.
Cheese covered in bandage can breathe better than in wax or plastic, ensuring that correct storage can produce a preferred result.
Most recipes create a flaky cheese with a somewhat dry texture when using the bandaging process. That’s why cheddar varieties tend to use this technique most often.
If you want to try this preservation method, the cheese must air dry for a minimum of seven days before it is ready for bandaging.
How to Start the Bandaging Process
Start by cutting the top and bottom circle from the cheese cloth for your product. You can cut squares if that is the shape you’ve made, although it will not work as effectively.
Next, cut the bandage lengths that cover the entire side diameter of your cheese. The height should be slightly more so that the product hangs over the top and bottom of the wheel. Overlapping the bandages ensures a proper seal.
Sanitize all of the bandages before sealing the cheese. Boiling them in water for five minutes works, although some products may require other techniques.
Melt your fat so that you can cover the cheese and bandages entirely. Lard is your best option. Some people like to use ghee. It is better to avoid butter because the cream in it can turn rancid, affecting the quality of the cheese.
Lard should be clear when it is correctly melted and free of bacteria. Once you reach this stage, let it cool some so that the hot temperatures don’t impact the quality of the cheese.
Although some cheesemakers like to paint lard on the cloth, it works better to dip the covering in the fat. Once it is thoroughly soaked, wipe off any excess before applying it to the cheese. Using a butter knife to spread out the cloth helps it to lay flat.
If you have a large wheel to protect, a pie server works well as a flattening tool.
Once it is entirely covered, place your cheese into a press for 60 minutes to ensure the bandage covers any lingering cavities. Repeat on the sides. Then store the product for the prescribed amount of time before use.