You’ve seen giant cheese wheels, right? They look super heavy and, guess what, they are. Some historic cheeses, like the Cheshire Mammoth Cheese, have even clocked in at over 1,000 pounds! To avoid any broken backs, traditional European cheesemakers realised the benefit of being able to roll their heavy, heavy cheeses around, and creating wheel-shaped moulds made obvious sense (rectangles are weaklings).
There were added practical benefits to the wheel shape. To produce a firm cheese like Cheddar requires tremendous amounts of pressure over many hours in order for the curds to combine and hold their shape. Round and cylindrical cheese moulds simply proved far sturdier than the rectangular molds that, though space-saving, broke easily and were more difficult to repair.
From a scientific standpoint, a round shape also serves an important purpose. As a cheese ripens, surface microflora spread over it and break down the edges. Cylindrical cheeses are less vulnerable to over-ripening than rectangular cheeses as the surface mould has fewer corners to break down, turning a perfectly delicious cheese into an overly salty disaster.
Additionally, a wheel shape is like body armour for a cheese until it’s cut. The wheel structure and rind allow the cheese to continue curing while simultaneously protecting it from insects, outside bacteria and the elements. In fact, certain cylindrical cheeses can even be stored at near room temperature while whole and sealed, which obviously proved useful for pre-refrigerator cheese lovers.
Which is your favourite wheel of cheese?
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