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Aug 9, 2001 06:16 AM

proper way to store cheese

  • m

I grew up in NYC where everything went immediately into the fridge, no matter what, or would risk attracting you-know-whats. When we served French or faux-French cheese such as Port Salut, Brie, St Andre, we'd take it out and let it sit for a few hours - but leftovers went back into the fridge. Anything that developed "character" (started to smell funnier than normal or got a bit of mould) went into the bin.

After noticing that my French friends put *no* cheese in the fridge ever - butter, either, unless it's broiling hot out - I realized there must be another way. I've started to experiment a bit, with wrapping cheese in various materials - and storing in different ways. Now when my cheese gets a bit of blue - I scrape it off and continue to enjoy. Is this unhealthy?

I'd be interested in suggestions as to whether there's a right or wrong way to store cheese, opinions on cling film v. wax paper...whether different cheeses shouldn't be stored "together" in the same tupperware (or indeed whether they shouldn't be stored in tupperware at all? Whether cheese ever really goes bad - and whether any should be stored in the fridge (what did people do before there was readily available cold storage?)

Any/all ideas or good sources of info are most the "cowsoutside" gentleman out there in Chowland (or cowland!) somewhere...?

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  1. It seems to me I recall Ms. Melanie Wong mentioning storing cheeses in her wine celler? I think one of the tricks is cool not cold. I store my cheese in the bottom drawer of the fridge and let them warm up awhile before consuming. As far as going bad ... yes. Cheese does go bad. It just doesn't go as quickly as we think it does. I trust my nose to know. If there's mold I cut it off, not scrape it, until I only see good cheese. Also if you buy wheels of cheese - these seem to last longer. I have a friend who swears by the vinegar soaked cheesecloth method of storing cheese but I found it imparts a harsh flavor in the softer cheeses. Parm. and romano can be stored in the freezer indefinitley. I'm still working on a couple of pounds from last fall without incident. But I use them for grating rather than hunk eating. As far as the blue veined cheeses - I usually only buy small amounts and they've never lasted long enough for me to detect that they've rolled over. And of course you're aware that the harder cheeses last longer than the soft ones. One trick my Mom had, (who wasn't much of a cook) was to keep a glass jar in the freezer and throw little odds and ends of cheese that hadn't been eaten into it and once a month or so she would make mac & cheese with a bechamel that included the leftover cheese. It was different every time but really delicious. She learned the trick from a french friend.

    1. On the cling wrap vs. wax paper issue, definitely avoid cling wrap. Cheese needs to breathe a little. I store mine in wax paper, then wrapped in tin foil (in the bottom drawer, as someone already suggested, although I'd bet a cellar is a better place) because I've found the wax paper doesn't stay closed very well by itself, and tin foil alone sometimes gives cheese a metallic taste.

      1. I'm sure there's a best way to store cheese and I've tried some of them. Unfortunately, my NYC apt did not come with a cave! But, just for your info, here are how the three biggies in my neighborhood (Fairways, Citarella's and Zabars) do it.

        Fairways - They seem to vary from using porous paper to saran wrap--and--the latest, as of last week--is to then place the wrapped cheese in a ziploc bag.

        Citarella's - In waxy paper, taped shut.

        Zabars - Saran wrap

        What I do is use loose saran wrap--then put the cheese in small ziploc bags. With fifteen minutes out on the counter to reintroduce the flavor. I do not like my cheese too warm, tho. And my husband's olfactory reaction--and verbal abuse--to any cheese stronger than Swiss is just too tough to bear. :-)

        I also have a revulsion towards cheeses that start to get moldy (not, of course, the cheeses that are supposed to have molds). But the instant that slightly spoiled flavor rears its head, the cheese gets tossed away. I know I'm wasting it--and that Julia Child could no doubt serve a family of 10 with what I think needs tossing--but that's one of my peculiarities.

        Cheese, by the way, is just about my favorite thing. I always have about 6 different kinds in the fridge for instant nibbling. My Lhasa Apso,incidentally, eats only that boring sliced provolone cheese--rejects all the better, tastier varieties. So I always keep a few slices in the fridge for him. (He also eats only Parma ham--rejects salami and chorizos.)If you have to give your dog a pill, you soon learn their favorites.

        1. One good way to wrap cheese is to first wrap it in slightly damp paper towels,and then in aluminum foil.

          2 Replies
          1. re: M.K.

            Is this for both soft and hard cheese?

            Seems our best market in Atlanta wraps it in what they call "French cheese paper" and recommends the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. 3 year old parm-reg holds up well like this. I really don't keep softer cheeses long enough to see how well they keep stored this way.

            1. re: Gregg S

              Well yeah,there's really no point in keeping soft cheeses around long,so I don't know....sometimes,I put plastic wrap on the cut portion of a soft cheese,and then wrap it in the paper/aluminum.

          2. My in-laws from Switzerland make mountain cheese (hobel kase). They keep their wheels in an unheated outdoor cheese room, and when they cut off a piece for the house, it gets wrapped in foil and goes in the cupboard. When they bring a piece over for us, they cut it, vacuum pak it, and it goes on a shelf in our basement. After I open it, I have to admit I wrap it again in foil and it goes in the fridge. My other cheeses I put in ziploc for convenience, but I do not recommend this method for lengthy storage.