So you’ve stopped by Savenor’s on a sunny afternoon, picked up a wedge of a new, exciting cheese, and brought it home. There it sits on the counter in all its glory; maybe you take a bite now, or maybe you’re saving it for dinner with friends. In any case, what exactly are you supposed to do with it to keep it fresh and tasty for as long as possible?
Some of the most common questions customers ask me are about proper cheese storage, and I am here to help! Here are some tips to ensure that your cheese stays fresh and delicious from the moment you buy it until the last bite is eaten.
First and foremost: if your cheese is wrapped in plastic, remove it the minute you get home. Plastic wrap is commonly used in most cheese shops because it’s sanitary and convenient, and it allows you to see the cheese before you buy it (imagine if our cheese case were full of mystery wedges wrapped in paper). However, cheese is a living thing that needs to breathe, and keeping it swathed in plastic essentially causes it to suffocate. The cheese will also take on an odd, plasticky flavor if it stays in the wrap too long. So if you do nothing else with your newly-bought wedge, get it outta that plastic as soon as possible.
If you don’t plan to eat your cheese right away, then the next step after unwrapping it will be to wrap it in something else. If you have access to cheese-wrapping paper (there is a wealth of varieties available online), this would be the perfect time to use it, but a cheaper, easier option is to use waxed paper. Wrap the cheese in the waxed paper, taping the paper closed if necessary, and then wrap loosely in plastic to keep odors out. Store it in a designated plastic container in the refrigerator, or in the cheese or vegetable drawer.
Once your cheese is properly stored, you’re well on your way to enjoying every last bite. But how do you know how much time you have before the cheese starts to turn?
The safest way to ensure that you’ll enjoy your cheese when it’s at its best is to buy only what you think you’ll eat in about two sittings. (Notable exceptions are hard, low-moisture cheeses, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Sbrinz, and Gouda Roomano Pradera, which will last much longer, especially when wrapped and stored properly.) This can be challenging with runny cheeses like Epoisses and La Tur, which come in wheels that are petite, but decidedly too large for just a couple of people– but then again, I’ve noticed that these super-soft beauties are often the first to disappear at parties, so perhaps it’s not such a challenge after all. And, remember, if you want to try a new cheese but can’t find a piece that is sized to suit your needs, simply ask and we’ll cut a fresh piece just for you.
And finally, when you’re pulling a cheese out of the fridge, use your best judgement to determine whether it is good to eat. If it smells off, if the texture has changed, or if it’s beginning to discolor, it’s probably time to toss it. If the cheese has mold spots that weren’t there when you bought it, you have a couple of options: with a harder cheeses like cheddar, Emmentaler, or Gruyere, you may be able to cut off the sections affected with mold and salvage the rest of the block (but if this makes you uncomfortable, toss it!). If it’s a softer cheese, or anything that came in a tub, don’t even take the chance– toss it!
Follow these steps, and you’ll be sure to get the best possible experience out of your cheese every single time.
Jesi Dunaway, Cheesemonger