Why Does Cheese Wax Come in Different Colors?
From red to purple, cheese wax comes in every color of the rainbow. Though any color of wax can coat any type of cheese, the most common are red, yellow and black. The wax color doesn’t change the cheese’s composition or flavor.
Keep reading to learn more about the meaning of cheese wax colors, along with the most popular cheeses for each color.
Cheese Wax Defined
Cheese wax is a special kind of wax specifically intended for preserving cheeses. It works as a seal, locking mold and bacteria out while keeping the cheese inside fresh. While cheese wax is paraffin-based, it’s better suited to preserving cheese than regular paraffin wax. The typical paraffin you may know of is crumblier and brittler than cheese wax, so it doesn’t provide an effective seal. Similarly, cheese wax is much more durable than beeswax.
Cheesemakers wax their cheeses in one of two ways — brushing it on or dipping the cheese into it. Both methods effectively preserve cheese, but dipping creates a more uniform surface, resulting in a cleaner-looking shell. Consumers can reuse their cheese wax once they’ve finished the block. Rinse it to remove the last traces of cheese. Then, melt it until it becomes liquid. You can either cool and store the melted wax for later use or reuse it right away.
Since cheese wax can be any color, you may wonder if cheese wax colors have specific meanings. The short answer is no — the wax color used is ultimately up to the cheese company and how they want to package their product — though let’s look at some differences between cheese wax colors.
Difference Between Cheese Wax Colors
Ultimately, the wax colors used on cheeses have no official meanings, and companies have free rein to use whatever color they prefer. Despite a lack of hard-and-fast rules specifying which cheeses can go in which color waxes, some colors tend to get used more often on certain cheeses. Here’s a closer look at cheese wax color meaning.
Red Cheese Wax
Red provides a striking contrast to yellow or white cheese, which is a compelling reason to use it.
One of the most recognizable red-waxed cheeses is Gouda, a semi-hard Dutch cheese with a mild, nutty flavor and smooth, creamy texture. Dating back to the 12th century, Gouda is one of the oldest cheeses we eat today. Edam, another Dutch semi-hard cheese, also comes in red wax. Similar to Gouda in its mildness, Edam cheese is smooth and firm in texture. Because they’re so similar, cheese experts often recommend the same wine and food pairings for each kind of cheese. Both Gouda and Edam also frequently come in yellow wax.
Often, cheddar comes in red wax, too. Ranging from pale yellow to bright orange, it’s a mild semi-hard cheese with a creamy texture. It’s easy to distinguish young cheddar from aged cheddar in the store by looking at the wax color — red for young cheddar and black for older cheddar.
Black Cheese Wax
Various cheesemakers coat their products in black cheese wax. Black cheese wax is one of the colors that most often holds some actual meaning. Many times, if a cheese is in black, it indicates age.
For example, you’ll often find aged Parmesan cheese in black wax. Originating in the Parma region of Italy, Parmesan, or Parmigiano Reggiano, is a hard cheese with a fruity, nutty flavor. It’s delightful for snacking and topping dishes like pasta. Additionally, cheddar sometimes comes in black wax. As it ages, cheddar becomes crumblier, with a sharper, nuttier flavor. It’s also saltier, as the aging process causes salt crystals to develop in the cheese. This type of cheddar is an excellent snack when paired with crackers, fruit and jam.
Clear Cheese Wax
Though it can stand alone, clear cheese wax is typically a base coat for colored cheese wax. Using two or three coats of cheese wax is the standard, so cheesemakers will sometimes use a clear coat before applying the colored wax. No matter what color the final layer of wax is, it should be opaque enough that you can’t see the cheese underneath. This rule ensures the wax is thick enough to protect your cheese from mold and ultraviolet light.
Festive Cheese Wax Colors
Because cheese wax coloring isn’t as significant as some may think, it’s easy to coordinate with the time of year or upcoming holiday. Typically made from cheddar cheese, cheese cutouts are popular around the holidays. These are pieces of cheese cut into a specific shape before waxing, and they often come in various wax colors. For example, around St. Patrick’s Day, shamrock-shaped cheddars in bright green wax appear in stores.
Shop All Colors of Cheese Wax With Blended Waxes
At Blended Waxes, we have cheese wax in almost any color you can imagine. We make all our cheese wax colors using pigments approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so they’re all safe to use on your cheese. Whether you need a lot or a little, we can help you find the perfect wax for your cheese. Contact us with any questions, or browse our cheese wax collection to see what we have to offer.