Sam Fujisaka: could you talk about storing cheese? [moved from Home Cooking]
I've read some old posts of yours where you talk about storing cheese (appropriately wrapped in the appropriate place in the refrigerator) for a super-long time! Could you explain wrapping/temp information for different cheese categories and what to watch out for? (ie, when you toss certain cheeses?)
I keep mine in the "lunchmeat drawer" (not the crispers, the upper drawer,) usually wrapped in plastic wrap b/c it's prone to dry out (mostly hard or semi-hard melting cheeses, along with some soft goat cheeses) and I always have issues with mold. (I assume that's the airtight nature of the plastic wrap?)
Cheeses being consumed (over the course of a year or so): I keep a good hard cheeses from Italy wrapped in wax paper with a rubber band around the whole--in the middle of the ref. They don't pick up smells or provide any; and don't dry out excessively.
Softer cheeses without much character (e.g., a local mozarella or quesos campesinos), I store open until they harden and cure--some of these get forgotten, very hard, and then make good grating cheeses.
For the longer term: I have a huge new (only five months) block of Percorino Romano from Italy: I carefully dried off the sweat from its trip here, wrapped most in paper towels and placed in a plastic bag at the bottom of the ref. A chunk is in wax paper and being used. I still have some 8-months Oaxaca cheese also carefully dried with paper towels prior to wrapping in plastic bags and placed at the bottom of the ref along with the PR. All are in good shape.
I'm still finishing some good cheeses from Italy that are a good seven or eight years old. Plastic works for long-term storage as long as there is no surface moisture to start with. Wax paper works well with the cheeses you're currently munching on.
I think a good, self-defrosting ref is important to the process. And anything stored in plastic sould be periodically checked for surface moisture (which should be blotted away). When using wax paper, change it a couple of times initially as it absorbs some intial moisture.
I purchased some Maytag blue cheese from the factory a while back (an ok blue but pretty over rated in the Midwest in my opinion) and it came with freezing instructions. An interesting suggestion was to let the cheese thaw in the fridge for at least 24-48 hours before consuming. I had previously frozen cheese and had not waited that long when re-using it. After waiting for a day or two, I have found that the texture of the cheese returns pretty much to its original state, and now do it for any type of frozen cheese.
Some cheese can indeed be frozen, the real determinant is the water content of the original cheese. As we know, water expands when frozen. and this affects the texture of the product. Generally, low water content cheeses freeze pretty well (hard cheeses), high water content cheeses (soft) freeze poorly- with some exceptions. I've received Buffalo Mozz in the US that was frozen in Italy just after making, and thawed in the shop and was *fantastic*. Reviewed by customers (and me) as the freshest tasting Buff Mozz they'd had since Italy. I was shocked that it was so good, but it was.
But.... you can't freeze the runnies, like brie, or the softer washed rinds- you get curds and whey (essentially, but really solids and water)- with freezer burn. Ick.
Cheeses that freeze very well- those you plan on melting or cooking with anyway. Raclette, Gruyere, Appenzeller- when you melt them, any texture problems with freezing is mitigated by the melting.
You know what freezes horribly- good english cheddar. The kind where you can look at the edge and see the fault lines of the curds that were pressed together (essential to the cheddaring process). They will disintegrate along those "curd lines". A mess when thawed. Just ridiculous. Perhaps factory cheddar freezes better, I don't know.
Parmesean and other really hard cheese freeze well, but do lose texture. When I closed the shop, I had about 5 pounds of Parm left, so I cut them into 1 lb pieces and froze them separately. The taste was there, but when you try to grate, you get something akin to sawdust, rather than a ribbony grate. Fine for pasta, for an ingredient in dressings and dishes, but not so great (grate!) atop a salad, or anything fresh. Horrible for a cheese plate, just unmanageable.