Bandaging, or wrapping, hard cheeses is generally done to assist proper rind formation and development of full flavor profiles and textures in hard cheese. It is used a lot on cheddars, but there are many kinds of cheese that may call for this kind of ripening technique. The basic procedure for bandaging is to rub the entire surface of the pressed cheese with fat (butter, lard, oil, etc.), a method also called larding. This stops unwanted mold from growing directly on the rind of the cheese; rather, the mold will grow on the surrounding cheesecloth, allowing the cheese to develop flavors beneath the bandaging, safely away from those unwanted growths.
To bandage your cheese, you will need:
- Lay out all four layers of cut cheesecloth on top of one another. Put the cheese on top of them, and use sharp scissors to cut circles out of the cloth, using the cheese as a guide. Cut about 1-1/2 inches away from the edge of the cheese wheel. Cut through all four layers of cheesecloth.
- Cut two long strips of butter muslin, just a bit wider than the sides of your cheese wheel. They should be long enough to wrap around the circumference of the cheese once, overlapping slightly.
- Begin rubbing the cheese with the fat, using gentle circular motions. Try to get the thickness of the layer of fat as uniform as possible across the entire surface of the cheese. Once you have fully coated an end of the cheese wheel, carefully pick up one of the cheesecloth circles and place it on the larded surface. Gently press the cheesecloth into the layer of fat. Lay a second layer of cheesecloth on top of the first, repeating the rubbing and pressing steps. Do the same on the other side of the cheese, rubbing it down with fat and covering it with cheesecloth. You can carefully fold the edges of the cheesecloth circles down to the sides of your wheel. Turn the cheese on end and rub the sides with fat, taking care to cover the edges well. Wrap the strips you made earlier over these edges and across the sides of the cheese, folding and pressing as you go.
- Place the wrapped cheese in a ripening cave or a root cellar away from drafts and sunlight for the duration of the aging period.
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