I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconut Gouda
Our third cheese assignment for the League of Urban Cheesemakers is Gouda. The meeting when we’ll taste it is not until January, but I made mine last week so that it will have about four months to age. Gouda is usually waxed for aging (traditionally with red wax, but any color works), which seals the wheel, keeping moisture in and mold out. You can finish Gouda however you want though. The recipe I used suggested waxed, oiled, or spice rubbed.
I’ve made oiled natural rind cheeses before and actually enjoyed it more than waxed cheeses, both in process and results. Waxed cheeses are pretty stable, so you just flip them every now and then and otherwise leave them alone… which is boring. Also, when you open them (at least with the one’s I’ve made) there tends to be mold under the wax anyway, try as you might, which then has to be cut off and kind of ruins the aesthetic of the wheel. On the other hand, oiled cheeses take some more maintenance; rubbing them regularly with oil and chasing molds away, as well as flipping. You’re more involved and aware of their progress and the end result is a nice supple, clean, even rind.
In the past I’ve used olive oil to coat my natural-rind cheeses, which works well. It’s runny of course, and makes a very thin coating, and has to be re-applied frequently once it’s absorbed or dries up. This time I have a new idea though – coconut oil! It’s all the rage in the cooking world right now. I’m not sure it’s as healthy as a lot of the fad-followers claim, but I suppose it does make for tasty baked goods. I bought a jar a while back for a recipe, but haven’t really found a use for it since then. So, faced with a shortage of cheese wax and an odd jar of coconut oil, I decided to try it out as a cheese coating.
If you’ve used coconut oil, you know that it is very temperature sensitive. Just sitting in the cupboard it can be a runny liquid on a warm day, or completely solid on a cool one. This plays into my strategy for aging my cheese, since it will be in the cold cheese cave for the next four months. I caught my coconut oil at a moment when it was semi-solid; kind of pasty, which made it easy to rub all over the exterior of my Goudas with just my fingers. It didn’t drip, but made a nice smooth coating. Then I stuck the wheels in the cave and the oil quickly solidified into an almost wax-like coating. (I had to re-do some of it at first, because the oil solidified to the cheese mat and pulled off the wheel, but I just put the cold side down, re-oiled the top, and let it get solid. All better!) When I take the cheeses out of the cave to flip them, the heat of my hands quickly makes the oil just a little more malleable and I can smooth the wax around and make sure coverage is good. After about a week already, I haven’t needed to reapply oil, because the original coating is still thick and intact.
As for taste, we’ll have to see how the coconut oil influences the cheese. I think it will be nice. Coconut oil has a pretty pronounced coconut smell (which is lovely), but the taste is more subtle and I think it will meld nicely with the taste of cheese and maybe even give it a slight tropical note around the rind. I actually sampled some coconut cheese at a Dutch Queen’s Day festival once – made with milk and coconut cream – so I feel like I’m not even going that far out on a limb here. If it works, I think I’ll have found my prefered method of aging natural rind cheese; a good middle-ground between wax and oil.
So, I’m curious. Have you ever used coconut oil on cheese? Or any other interesting oils or fats (a friend told me recently about using bacon grease!)? What’s your favorite method for finishing and aging semi-hard and hard cheeses?