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TIP OF THE DAY: Storing Cheese

Some types of cheese in full, uncut wheels—Gouda and Parmigiano-Reggiano, for example—can age for several years. Their flavor, aroma and texture grow more complex over time.

But for most cheeses, once the wheel is cut and the rind is broken, the cheese begins to deteriorate. Small pieces of cheese have an even shorter lifespan than large, cut wheels.

Given the cost of cheese, you don’t want it to spoil before each delicious bite is consumed. So here are tips to properly handle and store your cheese. The tips are from Formaticum.com*, which sells specialty paper for wrapping cheese. (The two-ply cheese paper maintains proper humidity and allows adequate oxygen exchange to keep cheese alive [breathing] and tasty. It is the same paper used by leading Parisian fromageries.)
 
*Formaticum is a noun created from the Latin verbs forma, to shape or mold, and aticum, to age. It was first used by Roman legionnaires to describe a specific cheese of compressed curds of milk, made in a mold.

 

The best way to wrap cheese is in special cheese paper. Photo courtesy Formicatum.

 

GENERAL CHEESE STORAGE TIPS

There is no single way to store all the many types of cheeses. But one general tip is:

1. DON’T WRAP CHEESE IN PLASTIC. It needs to breathe. To retain its delicate flavor balance, the cheese requires both oxygen exchange and storage at the proper humidity. Non-porous materials like plastic wrap suffocate a cheese. In soft cheeses, they accelerate an ammonia aroma. Non-porous wraps also trap too much moisture, accelerating the growth of invasive surface molds.

Wax paper, aluminum foil and plastic wrap are unsuitable for wrapping cheese because they neither regulate humidity nor allow oxygen exchange. Cheeses wrapped in them are more likely to dry out, grow surface molds and otherwise spoil. If you’re planning to finish the cheese in a day or two it’s not an issue; but if you’re not sure when you’ll get around to eating it, you should invest in cheese paper (check out the Formicatum website).

2. AVOID PRE-CUT, PLASTIC WRAPPED CHEESE. For the best possible flavor, shop at a cheese counter with unwrapped cheeses. Cheese that is cut to order is always the freshest and tastiest. Always taste before you buy. Try to avoid plastic-wrapped, pre-cut pieces of cheese. If those are your only choices, however, be mindful of the “cut and packaged date” on the label and be sure the cut date is within a day of purchase. When you get home, you can rewrap the cheese in cheese paper (or waxed paper, in a pinch).

 

If you buy a lot of fine cheese, consider a
cheese dome. This one is from Core Bamboo.

 

3. CONSIDER A CHEESE DOME. Cheese domes (photo at left) are a great way to store cheese without wrapping. Cheese stored under a glass dome creates its own climate and proper humidity. White mold, soft ripened cheeses like Brie and Camembert and washed rind cheeses (the “stinky” group) are ideal when stored under a cheese dome. They’re available with a marble, wood or glass base, and are a terrific gift idea for someone who enjoys good cheese frequently. (Or give them a box of cheese paper.)

4. STORE EACH CHEESE INDIVIDUALLY. Never wrap different cheeses together: Their flavors will interact and none of them will taste as good as they should. Label the cheese with the date of purchase (and the name, if you won’t remember it).

 

MORE CHEESE TIPS

CUTTING. Cut soft cheese while it’s cold (we put very soft cheeses like chèvre logs in the freezer to firm up so we can cut slices for salads). Harder cheeses such as aged Gouda and Parmigiano-Reggiano are much easier to cut at room temperature. For hard cheese, a sharp cheese knife with an offset handle is the professional utensil of choice. For soft cheese a wire cheese cutter will ensure clean cuts. Always clean tool the tool before slicing, to prevent the introduction of new molds or bacteria.

“FACE CLEAN.” Before re-wrapping cheeses that have been at room temperature cheeses, blot or use a serrated knife to scrape any oil or moisture that has formed on the surface. Always rewrap in clean wrapping material.

TEMPERATURE. Cheese should ideally be enjoyed at room temperature, but will last longer in the fridge. Drastic temperature changes are not good for fine cheese. Keep cheese in the fridge and only remove and warm to room temperature what you will consume in each sitting. If you have leftover cheese that has been sitting out for hours, store it under a cheese dome at room temperature and finish it the next day. Soft cheese that has been left out overnight is delicious on morning toast. Never freeze cheese.

CHECKING IN. Don’t loose cheese at the back of the fridge; it’s too expensive to throw out when you discover it weeks or months later. Check and rewrap the cheese periodically if the wrapper has become damp or oil-stained, and plan to eat it (or give it to someone who will).
 
Discover much more about cheese and read reviews of our favorites in our Cheese Section.
  




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