Thinking inside the Ripening Box!

I often receive emails asking how I go about ripening several cheeses at once that need different humidity levels or how to prevent cross-contamination.  There are several ways to do this, first and most expensive is to have several “caves” each set to different temperatures and different levels of humidity.  Not really practical if you are on a budget.  You could vacuum seal the cheese, which I do from time to time, face it I do this a lot, as I suck at waxing cheese.  The  option I use this most often is a ripening box. 

A ripening box or “mini-cave” is any food safe container with a lid that you can ripen cheese in while controlling, to the best of your ability, the humidity levels.  This can be anything from a plastic zip-lock container to a Rubbermaid box as well.  I have how to make a “Mini-Cave” in an earlier post, this can be a temporary cave for transportation or you can use it for high humidity ageing.  But if you want something that involves a little less hassle then a ripening box is the way to go. Here is how to make a simple one with a small container.  The principle is the same with any size box.

Step one:  Find a Food Safe Container to use.  This one was purchased at that Swedish Store.

Find a Food Safe Container to use. This one was purchased at that Swedish Store.

You should make sure that it is big enough for your cheese.  This one is so I will continue.

You should make sure that it is big enough for your cheese. This one is so I will continue.

Your cheese should not sit directly on the the bottom of the container.  I use cheap needle point mats.

Your cheese should not sit directly on the bottom of the container. I use cheap needle point mats.

I usually double layer then to keep the cheese up higher.

I usually double layer then to keep the cheese up higher.

Then you place your cheese into the box, on the mat.  (Note: demo cheese is vacuum sealed as it is in long term ageing. Your cheese would not be vacuum sealed)

Then you place your cheese into the box, on the mat. (Note: demo cheese is vacuum sealed as it is in long-term ageing. Your cheese would not be vacuum sealed)

Before you put the lid on you have to decide if you need to add humidity/moisture to the box.  I find that if you are ripening semi-lactic cheese then you can get away with not putting a wet paper towel in the corner, as they are moist enough to keep the humidity at the right level.  If you are not sure then put a damp/wet paper towel in the corner opposite of the cheese.

Next put the lid on, but leave it open just a crack to allow for air flow.

Next put the lid on, but leave it open just a crack to allow for air flow.

Notice the opening,

Notice the opening,

Now you will put this into your cave and start your ripening.  You will need to check every day to make sure the moisture level is right.  Here is a tip, if you notice a “fog” on the container then you are between 85 and 95% humidity.  It is important to wipe the lid of the container every day.  This prevents water dripping on your cheese, this becomes second nature as you begin to use them more and more.

Even a dollar store container can be a ripening box

Even a dollar store container can be a ripening box.

Or a cheap little "Cheese Box"

Or a cheap little “Cheese Box”

This lettuce crisper is one of my favourite ripening boxes for larger cheeses.

This lettuce crisper is one of my favourite ripening boxes for larger cheeses.

I can put a pedestal and a mat in it, then pour some water in the bottom to keep the humidity level up.

I can put a pedestal and a mat in it, then pour some water in the bottom to keep the humidity level up.

It has these awesome vents that I can use to control air flow.

It has these awesome vents that I can use to control air flow.

As you can see the cheese would be off the bottom and away from the water.

As you can see the cheese would be off the bottom and away from the water.

I hope this helps those who were wondering what I mean as a Ripening Box/Mini-Cave.  If you have any questions please let me know, or feel free to share your tips in the comments below.

If you check out Much To Do About Cheese on Facebook you will see more pictures and some of my cheeses in their ripening boxes.

Go make some cheese!

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9 comments

      1. Hi Paul,

        The cheese was just there for a demonstration, actually it was the only cheese I had on the go when I made the post. When I use a ripening box I don’t vacuum seal the cheese. If I do vacuum seal a cheese then I don’t worry about ripening boxes, because as you said, humidity is not an issue.

    1. Sonia, I am not sure where you live, but I buy needlepoint mats at any craft store (Michaels, here in Canada). I have even seen them at larger dollar stores in their toy/craft sections.

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