The best place to store cheese for ripening and aging is a cheese cave. Before the use of basements and cellars, caves were the preferred place for storage because of their cool temperatures and consistent humidity levels.
Home cheesemakers and artisanal providers can create this space with limited resources when a room contains three critical elements.
- It must maintain a constant temperature based on the variety made.
- A specific moisture level must be available for the cheese, with humidity levels above 80% sometimes necessary.
- Fresh air must be available to move around the cheese to prevent unwanted mold or mildew development.
The best way to make a cheese cave is to add pine or ash boards as shelves to a basement area. This option replicates the traditional atmosphere, especially if you can run humidity modification products in the area.
When that option isn’t a possibility, you can still make cheese at home using these options.
What Are the Best Ways to Age Cheese at Home?
1. Use your refrigerator.
Although it typically operates a little colder than a cave, you can set this appliance to perform at a warmer temperature. Protect the cheese by placing it in the deli or vegetable container. It helps to add a wet towel to keep humidity levels high enough to encourage the aging and ripening process.
The drawer for the cheese should be about 60% empty space to give it enough space to breathe.
2. Modify an old refrigerator.
If you have an older refrigerator, you can typically set the appliance at a warmer temperature than what the new models allow. Add a pan of water in the holding area to keep humidity levels at an appropriate amount. You may notice that abrupt changes to the environment happen as the seasons change – summer can be challenging when using this method.
It helps to make less cheese during the warmer months so that you have more control over the temperature. If this option is a long-term plan, invest in a hygrometer to monitor the moisture levels in your artificial cheese cave.
3. Use your basement or cellar.
A cool cellar does an excellent job of keeping your cheese stable. If you don’t have a way to control humidity levels in this area, consider placing the items you make in plastic containers. You can add a damp paper towel to introduce moisture as needed.
If you use this option for a soft ripening cheese, you must keep removing the whey that develops in the bottom of the container. You don’t want what other cheeses coming into contact with it.
Having a gentle fan push slow-moving air through the area ensures that you get enough movement to encourage a successful drying process.
Cake holders, Tupperware containers, or anything similar can help you to build a functional cheese cave on a limited budget.
For a more in-depth look at What’s in the Cheese Cave watch this video
Video Credit to Gavin Webber