If you like older, sharper cheddar but don’t want to spend as much money on it, you can age it yourself right at home. This is also a good option if you like your cheddar aged longer than what you can usually find in stores (and in most cases the maximum is around 7 years and that is only from specialty cheese sellers). The process is surprisingly simple as long as you take other factors into consideration. You can either start with fresh, homemade cheese or purchase some cheese that is already aged and allow it to continue aging to save some time.
Where To Store
The most important step in the process of aging cheddar is to find the correct place to store it. Most manufacturers will have a cheese cave that meets all of the necessary requirements but most individuals won’t. For your cheddar to age correctly you need to store it in a cool, damp place with plenty of humidity and ventilation.
Some people try to use their current refrigerator but the average temperature is about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than a cave. This means if you store it in your fridge, you should put it in the warmest part and turn up the temperature as much as your other food can handle. Another option is to get an old refrigerator you don’t use anymore and keep the temperature between 52 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you have a cellar, then you can simply put the cheese in a cabinet or covered plastic boxes in the cellar. Some people who don’t have an old fridge, don’t want to turn up the temperature in their current one and don’t have a cellar will choose to invest in a wine refrigerator and this is another great option.
The process of actually setting it up is fairly simple. You need to make sure that the environment for your cheese is damp but that the cheese itself is not moist. You also want to check for ventilation and make sure the cheese has enough room. When you put the cheese in a container in your fridge, the cheese should never take up more than 40% of the container.
As mentioned, one of the most important things to keep in mind for aging your cheese is humidity. If you are using a fridge or something similar to age your cheese, simply placing a pan of water in there may be enough but you will have to pay close attention to the water levels at all times. If your cheese is in a container, you should put a wet towel on the top but the key is to make sure that the towel is simply damp; it should not be wet enough to drip or to touch your cheese. If your cheese doesn’t get enough humidity, it may start to dry out and crack.
It is important to remember that you should not just leave your cheese alone to age. You will need to check on it regularly to make sure the environment has enough humidity and ventilation and that the temperature is correct. You also want to check for incorrect molds to make sure that your cheddar is aging correctly.