Thursday, 10 November 2011

First fridge first: the cheese cave

Ok, as you know I have been organising myself in the recent weeks to start some home cheese making.
Because I need to get some experience on hard and aged Italian cheeses the first issue to be addressed for me was the set up of an aging area with the right conditions for maturation of theses cheeses.
The condition required are 8-12° C temperature and 85-95% humidity. As I've shown in a previous post, most people resort to slightly or heavily modified fridges in order to reach this conditions. Here is another solution for curing meats:
This usually implies an added thermostat and the exclusion from the circuit of the built-in one. It's only a few bucks and real quick work but I have figured out a way to do it even in a cheaper way.
The picture you see at the head of the post is one of classic fridge thermostat. You'll find one of those basically in any European fridge. It is positioned right behind the controller used to regulate the temperature/power of the fridge, and to access it you have to take down that part of the fridge. It's usually pretty straight forward and that's what I've done here: take it down!
If you look at the thermostat from the side which has no cables, this is what you'll see:

That little screw indicated by the red arrow can be used to modify the temperature range of your fridge. In it's natural position it will make the fridge work usually between 8° C (minimum power) and 3-4° C (maximum power position). But if you screw clockwise, that range will change towards higher temperatures. I screw it in almost to the end and then started the fridge, put the power to minimum. After 12 hours it indicated 16°C (thermometer in a filled water bottle). Too much. I put the power level up to 3.5, another 12 hours and was down to 13°. Now it's on 4 and the temperature is a steady 12. Perfect. I put everything back together. The good thing about this method it's that you can always restore the fridge to its original condition and resell it, no holes anywhere.

For the humidity issue, some people like to go for the hygrostat + fogger solution like here: but it involves another expense (50 euro maybe). So many others go for the easy solution of just letting the humidity build up in the fridge and leave water to evaporate from containers. In this case the fridge needs to be properly sealed (including the hole for drainage of condensed water which is usually at the bottom/back of the fridge area). Another solution is to make your cheese mature in a closed container (which will also eliminate cross contamination if you are working on different types of cheese). The easy solution is what I'll use for now.
Last night I carried out my first experiment, there is a lot to be improved, so I won't post pics unless I'll be extremely impressed by the result which is at the moment aging in the cave...

More soon!

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