How Waxed Rind Cheese Is Different From Natural Rind Cheese
Pressed cheeses can be aged by either an aerobic (absorbing oxygen) or anaerobic method (not absorbing oxygen). Natural rind, bloomy rind, and washed rind cheeses are all aged with the aerobic method - their rinds are exposed to oxygen supply in the cheese aging cave. Waxed rind cheeses, however, are pressed cheeses dipped and sealed in wax before aging. Due to this lack of exposure to oxygen, the flavor profile of a waxed rind cheese is quite distinct from natural rind styles. Some of the most common waxed rind cheeses are traditional Dutch Gouda styles. The texture of waxed rind cheeses can range from semi-firm, supple, and melt-able to dense, crystalline, and crumbly.
Origins of Waxed Rind Cheese
Waxed Rind Gouda Cheese from the Netherlands, particularly Edam cheese
, is one of the most popular category of cheeses in the world. Gouda has been produced in the Netherlands since the 12th Century and has been traded with merchants since the Middle Ages. The function of the waxed rind made it easy to transport during the warmer months before refrigeration and to stack for long distances. The waxed rind also served as a protective layer from external pests. These practical factors, along with the delicious and varied texture of waxed rind styles, resulted in the centuries of success we see today.
Factors That Effect Ripening
Cheesemakers that specialize in waxed rind cheese production also inoculate the cheesemaking milk with starter cultures and bacteria that will develop the best flavor in the anaerobic, sealed environment. Those starter cultures, coupled with the rennet enzyme that continues to convert lactose into lactic acid results in the waxed rind cheeses we enjoy today. The curd is cut, usually heated to release more moisture, and then pressed into dense, fresh wheels before being dipped in wax and placed into a cool, humid cave to age properly.
Waxed rind cheese still requires a high humidity environment in order to age properly. Recommended humidity levels for a cheese cave are 90 to 98% humidity.
Best Way to Store Waxed Rind Cheese
The Cheese Grotto was designed specifically with this style of cheese in mind. The Cheese Grotto provides that balance of humidity, airflow, and natural materials to allow waxed rind cheese to thrive.
If the Grotto is out of your budget currently, we recommend you consult the 3 Best Ways to Store Cheese article!
How to Serve Waxed Rind Cheese
It is always, always recommended to let your cheese come to room temperature before you enjoy it. The experience is so vastly different, it is a shame to do otherwise. The rind is not edible (unless you enjoy eating wax), so it is recommended when cutting pieces to serve to minimize the wax rind on each piece (see Beemster Gouda below).
Pairing Food and Wine with Waxed Rind Cheese
Waxed Rind Cheese is a vast category, with flavor and texture profiles ranging from milky and grassy to dense and caramelized. We've found many of the medium-aged goudas pair well with Pinot Grigio, as outlined here. Roasted nuts, dried cherries, and a smooth bourbon whiskey is a great combination for the denser, caramelized styles of waxed rind styles.