You might think of cheese as a product of wizardry. Despite the fact that all cheese represents some version of aged milk, there are thousands of flavors and textures that come from essentially the same simple ingredients.
By the time we buy cheese from the grocery store or cheese counter, it’s sold at peak condition, and we want to preserve that texture and flavor as much as possible. Luckily, we don’t need to be professionals (or wizards) to keep our cheese from losing its luster. We just need to store it properly.
1. Wrapping your cheese
First thing’s first: plastic wrap is great for many things, but storing cheese in your fridge is not one of them*. In the worst-case scenario, plastic wrap hugs the cheese so tightly that it can’t breathe, which creates unwelcome molds; in the best-case scenario, the cheese takes on an unfortunate plastic flavor.
So what’s the alternative? Wrap your cheese in cheese paper, wax or parchment paper, taking care to make sure the paste is covered and the folds are secure (you can also use tape). This allows the cheese to breathe without being directly exposed to cold, stale air.
2. Make the fridge your best friend
Next, find a somewhat isolated place in the fridge to store your newly wrapped cheese, preferably an area that limits air circulation and provides a cool (but not too cold) environment. We recommend using the bottom vegetable drawer or a plastic container with a slightly open lid. Separating cheeses from the main part of the fridge can help maintain a constant temperature and prevent strong flavors or odors from interacting with each other and negatively impacting taste.
Lastly, remember that harder, aged cheeses (like Parmigiano Reggiano) can be stored for longer periods than fresh and bloomy rind varieties, which should be consumed as soon as possible after purchase.
3. Unwrapping and re-wrapping
As a living, evolving thing, cheese continues to change as it ages. When it lives in your fridge for longer periods of time, sometimes you’ll unwrap cheese to find that the outer paste has dried out or it’s become host to a suspicious looking mold. But here’s the good part‒this doesn’t necessarily mean the cheese is bad. Often you can save that $15 you spent by simply cutting a thin slice off of the cheese to reveal a new, delicious interior below. Voilá! Good as new.
That being said, here’s how to know when your cheese is past its prime.
*Cheese shops typically display cheeses in their cases using plastic wrap so that customers can see what they’re tasting and buying. In most cases, cheesemongers will cut and sell through cheese quickly enough that its integrity isn’t affected, particularly since they are cutting from large wheels.
May 13, 2014
By Lauren McDowell
Lauren McDowell’s journey into specialty cheese began during her college years at The University of Texas at Austin, where she studied English and Public Relations in between trips to the closest cheese counter. After her stint living on a farm as a Peace Corps Volunteer, she headed to New York University to complete a Master’s degree in Food Studies. Prior to her role at CheeseRank, Lauren’s time in NYC included working as a cheesemonger, writing about cheese, food and culture, and teaching classes in academic and retail settings.