In 2015, we interviewed Tatiana Thomas who lives in Yekaterinburg, Russia – (click here). Tatiana is now selling her Camembert and she is in the process of organizing a “Mold Cheese Festival” which will celebrate dairy farms in her area.
Recently, she shared her new “cave” with us because she said, “I want American home cheese makers to be able to have the same aging cave as mine, while spending very little money.” We appreciate that, of course!
She added, “It should be said that I can do any settings in this cave – both any temperature and humidity. I can use my cave like a wine cabinet or anything more. Any cheeses can age there – hard and soft ones.”
How she made it:
First, I needed a refrigerator. I bought a used showcase refrigerator made by Cold Masters. (The fridge must have a ventilator to dispel the moist air evenly inside it.)
Then, I watched a video on YouTube about a Russian who is selling aging caves he made himself (which are very expensive):
Link to video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhmUUnDkR4w
I found a handyman, whose work is a industrial refrigeration repair, and I showed him this video. He advised me to buy a humidifier and a humidity controller.
First he put the humidifier into the cave. But we were afraid that the high humidity would effect the humidifier’s electronics. So, my genius helper drew an outline of the system, and he took the humidifier out of the cave and put it on a stand in back of the refrigerator.
This was an improvement over the cave in the video which doesn’t take into account the effect of the high level of humidity on the humidifier.
The moistened air from the humidifier was blown in by pipes.
He then connected the humidifier to the humidity controller. It would seem that the aging cave was ready, but it was not.
It became clear that there was very strong condensation and fog in the cave. It ruined the white cheese cover on my Camemberts. My helper thought to put a heating tube around the grey pipe. The air is heated, so the fog became less. So, there is insulation around the pipe.
The humidifier must be serviced every day. It’s easy to do because the humidifier is situated outside the cave. When the weather is hot, I have to add water more often than when it’s cold. Usually I use about 1.5 quarts every day.
All the water, going through the cave, comes out in a hole for liquids on the lower back of the fridge. I am hoping to make a circular loop with the water coming in and out, but that will require a pump.
It is important to find the “golden mean” between the necessary temperature and humidity, because the fridge, when it cools, drops the humidity level.
You can see a covering with a lot of small holes on the back side. We added it for level air blowing with the ventilator. Thus, we get an air exchange.
List of things you will need:
1) Refrigerator. My helper said that a fridge with a high temperature compressor is better than a low temperature one. (Because for cheese, aging is better at a rather high temperature, and a fridge with a high temperature compressor reaches it easier.)
2) A humidifier. I bought mine at AliExpress (click here)
3) Humidity and temperature controllers. I bought mine at AliExpress (click here)
4) Water pipes for steam from the humidifier and a thin heating tube.
5) Plastic pane with small holes on the rear inner side. It is for uniform cooling and air exchange.
6) Skillful hands, of course!!
That’s all. Now you have almost professional equipment for low cost.
A note from Tatiana:
I have heard many exciting things about America, and what made me professionally interested is a quite amazing Californian cheese – Humboldt Fog. It consists of two layers, with ash and mold. I have never seen or tried anything like this and would love to learn how to make it. I have 2-3 weeks of vacation time and I would be happy to share my experience in creating my aging cave, if anybody is interested. Making it oneself saves a lot of money! You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org