Did you ever have a terrarium when you were a kid? Well a ripening box is similar to a terrarium—but for cheese! It creates a micro environment, typically with higher humidity, that helps your cheese develop into a delicious home made treat.
Once you advance beyond fresh cheeses, you are going to need to age your cheese in an environment that helps it ripen. Ripening boxes don’t have to be expensive, and you probably can get started with things you already have in your kitchen. Let’s look at a few simple ideas.
The easiest ripening box isn’t a box at all! It is simply a plastic bag. Here I’ve put my cheese on a plate and slipped the whole thing into the bag.
I also recycle containers from things I buy at the grocery store, such as produce and salad boxes. Plastic storage containers work well as ripening boxes as do some take out containers. I like to have an assortment of boxes available for the different number and sizes of cheese I make.
Cheese needs to breathe as it ages, so I usually create some air holes in my ripening boxes (see white box above). You can make holes with a paper punch, a hot nail or a drill, depending on the material the box is made from. Be creative! I’m sure you have something around the house that will make a little hole in a plastic container.
Finally, you’ll need a way to allow for air flow under the cheese in your ripening box. Cheese makers call these draining mats, and they too can be made from things around the house. I have used chop sticks and skewers, small blocks of wood, bamboo mats, bar mats, and plastic mesh canvas. Be sure to choose a material that can be cleaned and sanitized as needed.
Submitted by Becca Heins