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Aug 29, 2001 11:47 AM

Does cheese ever REALLY go bad?

  • d

I was at a friend's house, and she left some cheese sitting out, I don't remember what kind (maybe mozzarella?) and I rushed to put it back in the fridge so it didn't spoil. She insisted that cheese never goes bad, "it just turns into another kind of cheese."

Is this necessarily true? Are there some cheeses that, after too long, become inedible? (I don't mean as a matter of taste, I mean to the point of making one ill.)

Also, for my cheesy edification, can you list some well-known cheeses that, when left in a warm dark place, turn into another kind of edible cheese? Or are there some that are good indefinitely, as long as you scrape the exterior mold off?

Thanks for your help!

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  1. I can't really answer your question - but it reminded me of that magical minute last summer up in Hoboken when I discovered what fresh mozz was really supposed to taste like. Truly amazing revelation. The guy in whichever italian deli it was threatened me and my family should he find out I ever refridgerated it - I was only to keep it in water out on the counter. I guess it's kind of like refridgerating tomatoes. Cardinal sin.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Shmingrid

      I just addressed the cheese going bad question up top. When I eat fresh mozzerella I too leave it unrefrigerated. The thing is you have to eat it that day. If left out in hot weather it will go bad. In fact, when mozzerella starts to sour, it gets softer and softer and loses its pleasant resiliency. The thing to do is to get the mozzerella right after it is made and while it is still warm and then enjoy it that day for lunch with some fruity olive oil, freshly cracked black peppercorn and some grilled tuscan wheat bread.

      1. re: nick

        you forgot the tomatoes, french olives and wine.

    2. I'm not sure about leaving cheeses out. For some reason, it would seem to me
      that harder cheeses would do better sitting out for a longer period of time.
      In the end, though, I think the aging of the cheese was originally done in a
      little more controlled conditions than my countertop. I'd probably be more
      liable to be safe rather than sorry.

      While we're on the subject of cheese, I have another question. I bought a block of cheddar the other day which crumbled the minute I brought a knife to it. I assume it accidentally got frozen at some point in its supermarket career. Is there any way to rehydrate it?

      I think all this cheese talk calls for a cheese night. Several years ago, a friend and I called cheese nights every now and then -- we'd buy some brie, some blue cheese, and at least one cheese we'd never tried before. We threw that together with a loaf of french bread, some fruit, water crackers, a bottle of red wine, and a subtitled movie. I do it occasionally now (as fattening as it is), and it's heaven on earth!

      Blue skies,

      5 Replies
      1. re: Catherine

        I doubt there's anything you can do to restore the natural texture to that cheddar. The formation of ice crystals and freeze-thaw broke down the fat/protein structure in it. Either take it back, or use it in cooking.

        1. re: Catherine

          once my friend who works at cheese shop and i went camping, he insisted that all we needed for lunches was cheese, so out came the english shopshire chedders and some farmers stilton, etc, soft french cheese and this one french runny cheese that was very aromatic.
          we ate most of the cheeses but got full and left this runny frech cheese in the car overnight the next day we felt it was just a bit riper, so we ate it, it was very amoniated and as we were traveling while camping pulled into a small town gas station. i went inside to pay and i realized everyone was staring at me. it seems that cheese was overpowering everyone in the store and we didnt even realize.

          1. re: Catherine

            Some cheddar just doesn't slice well. I've run accross an aged, extra sharp, white Cheddar from Canada that insists on crumbling if you try to slice it. I think the long aging dries it out a little more, making it impossible to slice.

            1. re: JP

              The great cheese-in-a-can from the Washington State University dairy doesn't slice too well, but it tastes great! I think some cheddar is just more apt to hold its curd formation than others.


            2. re: Catherine

              I swear, Catherine, you throw the best parties!! :-) After that and the sleepover, I wanna come over your house for some food parties! :-)

            3. No offense, but your friend is nuts. [big smile]

              Cheese that's not supposed to be moldy can sprout mold in a hurry. It can also harden or spoil. Fresh mozzarella gets sour quickly; hard mozzarella can harden or/and sprout mold.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Pan

                "Cheese that's not supposed to be moldy can sprout mold in a hurry. It can also harden or spoil. Fresh mozzarella gets sour quickly; hard mozzarella can harden or/and sprout mold."

                Sprouting mold is not the same thing as spoiling. You can cut off surface mold and the cheese is still edible.

                Cheese IS spoiled milk. Fresh mozzarella doesn't sour. It's the water bath that sours if you don't change it. The cheese itself will just harden and turn into something else that can be used for melting or grating that is still edible. Her friend is correct.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Yes. I'm a forgetful refridgerator inventory manager. I've seen softer cheeses (mostly blues) go liquid. I'm adventurous, but in my book that's cheese that's gone bad.

                  1. re: Greg Spence

                    It may not be something you'd enjoy eating, but it won't hurt you.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Any recipe for sweated but grated cheddar cheese?

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    I disagree. fresh Mozzerella can go bad. There is a difference between sour cheese and cheese. The high moisture content in mozzerella allows for bacterial growth (bacteria need moisture and protein to live) and if you leave mozzerella out between 70 and 120 degrees, bacteria alien to mozzerralla cheese thrive and multiply. These bacteria are not typical of mozzeralla cheese and are called putrefactive bacteria (they smell bad). Other harmful bacteria also mulitply exponentially under the right conditions and these bacteria have no flavor or smell but they can give you food poisoning. The moral of this story is that fresh cheeses (cheeses that have have been started, the first stage in the cheese making process) with a high moisture content should be treated as fresh dairy products and refrigerated. Other cheeses that will sour if left out too long are neufchatel, cream cheese, sour cream and farmer's cheese. Cheese is essentially soured milk BUT under very specific conditions. Other cheeses such as cheddar and swiss cheese do not contain enough moisture to promote bacterial growth and will only sweat moisture when left at room temperature. They will, however, eventually produce traces of ammonia on their surface which makes for very unpleasant eating.

                    1. re: nick

                      Thanks Nick, for that very detailed explanation. I think I'm finally starting to get it. :-)

                      I had that problem with my neufchatel cheese. ..must have left the Philly box out too long. . .most of the cheese was fine, but some fragments that were near the edges had gotten hard, crumbly and yellowish. Just brushed them off and the rest was fine. Though I do hate when it turns liquidy. . .

                  3. re: Pan

                    Cheese never REALLY goes bad. It only gets wiser.