Make your own cheese cave and you'll be able to cure hard cheeses at home! Your 21st century cheese cave won't look as romantic as a stone cave in Europe, with interesting things dripping from the walls. In fact, your "cave" will probably be a repurposed mini-refrigerator. While not as evocative in appearance, your modern cave will do the job accurately and you'll be creating fragrant cheeses. Learn how to prepare hard cheeses in our video
, where Tricia makes cheeses in her kitchen. Then follow our directions here and set up your own cheese cave for curing those cheeses at just the right humidity and temperature. Hard cheeses typically need to be cured 60 to 90 days, and with a cheese cave you can maintain the proper environment.
Regulate moisture in the cheese cave
Sadly, you can't just pop your curing cheeses into your refrigerator. Our fridges are low-humidity and adequate moisture in the air is crucial for ripening cheeses. On the other hand, you can't just put a pan of water in the fridge and hope for the best. You don't want water to condense and drip on the cheeses. An old mini-fridge is ideal, for low energy consumption and a small footprint in your pantry or cellar. Go ahead and add that open pan of water when you set up the old fridge, but for best results track the humidity with a hygrometer. Our simple Wireless Thermometer
reports temperature and also measures humidity. You are aiming for humidity in the 75 to 90 RH (relative humidity) range.
Regulate temperature in the cheese cave
If you just plug your refrigerator in and let it run, you won't end up with the 50°F temperature that is ideal for aging your cheese. You'll need to connect your fridge to a refrigerator thermostat
to get the temperature right.
Put the cheeses on wood
Try these bamboo mats under your cheeses, or make your own racks of wood to support them while letting air circulate. Tricia has her waxed farmhouse cheddar on a wooden cheese board, ready to cure in the cheese cave.
How many cheeses can you fit in a cheese cave? The rule of thumb is to have half of the volume taken up by cheese, and half by air. Adding and subtracting cheeses from the cheese cave will alter the humidity too -- with more cheeses raising the humidity. For more information, consult our excellent books on cheesemaking: Home Cheesemaking
, and Making Cheese, Butter & Yogurt
. It's simple to set up your own cheese cave and cure some hard cheeses!