[Sca-cooks] Cheese Perfume and Cheese Nutrition and Wax questions

Kathleen Madsen kmadsen12000 at yahoo.com
Wed Aug 22 08:12:24 PDT 2007

I apologize for the formatting.  I get the digest
version which doesn't make replying very easy at

**********From Sharon**********
3) On cheeses from the store, how can you tell if the
cheese is coated in
beeswax or some other food grade wax?  Can the other
waxes be used to make
molded or dipped candles?

**********My response**********
You usually can't tell if it's beeswax or paraffin
unless the wax is in it's natural color, these are the
two most common waxes used on cheeses.  Cheese wax is
typically made of paraffin and will sometimes have
additives blended in to control certain types of
growths.  Wax is also post-period.  You don't really
see much evidence that it's used until around the
victorian times when people began converting over to
gas lighting.

**********from Sharon**********
4) What are some of the traditional ways that cheeses
are wrapped and
protected (cloth, herbs, leaves, wax, mats, baskets?)?
 What are the best
historic household or cookbooks with cheesemaking
info?  (I have looked at
the articles in the florlegium.)  I know the following
have some info from
other people's suggestions and will request them on
interlibrary loan.:

***********My response**********
There was little done to protect cheeses in period. 
There is actually little done these days to wrap
cheeses, other than wax or some dried herbs, as most
options are going to cause unwanted mold to grow
against the cheese.  There is some evidence that
nettle leaves and grape leaves were used in Roman
times but these are secondary references so I don't
know how accurate they are.  Regardless, if you're
going to wrap your cheese in leaves you need to treat
the leaves first by macerating (boiling) them in a
high alcohol/water blend.  Bourbon and water with
grape leaves makes a yummy wrapper.  The only drawback
is that these wrapped cheeses don't have greatly
increased shelf lives, you may get an additional 2-3
weeks out of them.  Rather, they make it easier to
handle and get to market and they impart a different

The primary method used on the cheese was to form a
protective rind that would create a flavor profile and
texture in the final product that a) was pleasing and
would sell, and b) that was reproducible.  Parmigiano
Reggiano is floated in a brine solution for two days,
is allowed to air dry, and then is rubbed several
times with olive oil to give it that hardened rind. 
Munster uses a red smear, brevibacterium linens, that
is a strain of yeast designed to give a cheese a soft,
creamy interior that (while smelling rather strongly)
makes a pretty mild,yeasty flavor.  These munsters can
last up to two months.  Feta is aged in a brine
solution and as long as it stays completely submerged
will last a very long time.  The texture will get more
and more gluey as is ages though.  Another treatment,
which is very period, is to marinate the fresh cheeses
in olive oil.  They will react much like feta.

Here's my current working list of sources for cheese
Walter of Henley's Husbandrie - dates btw 1270 & 1300
Fitzherbert's Book of Husbandry - c. 1543
A hundreth good points of husbandrie - 1557
The Householders Philosophie - 1588
A dairie Booke for good huswives, Dowe - 1588
Skene of Hallyard's Manuscript of Husbandrie - 1666
Wm. Harrison, Description of Elizabethan Eng. - 1577
A generall rule to teche euery man that is willynge,
On the Making of Cheese
The nature of fresh non-salted cheese, Libro Settimo -
About Cheese, Bifrons - 1556
Inventory of one of Charlemagne's Estates, c. 800
Charlemagne's Cheese, a study. (Heather Rose Jones)

These, in addition to the ones you mentioned, are the
texts that I'm currently working with in regard to
cheese production.  I also have a number of livestock
and cattle documents that are from archeological finds
or period census data.



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