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Dec 11, 2007 03:15 PM

Long-Haul Travel with Cheese

Hi Chowhounds,

I'm taking a long-haul flight from London to California in a few days. I'd like to bring back some English cheeses to share with friends and family. In particular, I'm thinking about bringing home some stilton and cheddar. I've carried on food before, but not cheeses, so I'm a bit nervous about how I'm going to do this.

Any suggestions on how to keep cheese nice and fresh on an 11 hour flight + transit time without the use of 'technology'? (e.g. no dry ice, ice packs, etc). Bonus points for suggestions on how to keep the cheese in a presentable state (I plan on bringing the cheese back to share at gatherings over Christmas).

Thanks in advance for the help!

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  1. I would check with the cheese merchant as to how to wrap it. I would, however, check it rather than carry it into the cabin with me. The hold areas are certainly cooler than the cabins.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Gail

      Even though you don't intend to bring ice packs, etc., you can still buy--probably from the cheesemonger, which I hope, if you're in London, is Neal's Yard Dairy--a kind of insulated plastic bag that's widely available now. This will at least help maintain the residual coolness for a few hours. And as Gail said, make sure to put it in checked luggage, where it's nice and cool.

      I don't know if you've done your homework about bringing cheese into the States, but in case you haven't, here's a little info from my experience: Generically speaking, cheese is legal to bring in, but there are restrictions that apply to the length of aging of raw milk cheeses (in other words, the most delicious ones, the ones you most want to bring home). I have found, though, that customs officers generally have better things to do than learn the differences among the cheeses, examine the labels, and so forth. In other words, most of them just don't want to know. In fact, one time, rather than asking what kind of cheeses I had with me, the officer said, "Just hard cheeses, right?," to which I heartily agreed; it was obvious that he felt that what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him, or the USA. So when you arrive and declare what you're bringing, simply include "cheese" on the list, without going into any further detail. If they should ask for specifics, feign ignorance about the different types--it's all just cheese to you. You should do fine.

      Bon voyage.

      1. re: Barry Foy

        Thanks for the reminder about the cheese rules. I'm quite familiar with them and the other food transit rules across the Atlantic.

        I already have every intention of purchasing a cooler bag. I guess I'm trying to see if there are other options or tricks that I've overlooked. I'm also a bit weary of putting cheese into my checked luggage because I don't want it to get banged up. I've always had bad luck with food presents that have been transported in checked luggage rather than carry-on.

        1. re: misswills

          Can't you wrap it well in something heavy and bulkly like a washable sweater packed in the middle of your checked bag? I've brought all sorts of things across both seas with incredible success.

        2. re: Barry Foy

          Given that cheese need not be refrigerated, I think that if it survives customs, it will survive the trip. The real question is how to protect your clothes from the ripe scent. I imagine that the cold of the cargo hold will help. To further preserve clothing, consider using wax paper as a light wrap and then placing the cheese in a tupperware sort of container.

      2. Your cheese guy probably has a cryovac in the back. See if he will vacuum seal your hard cheeses so all of your clothes don't stink! I carried some cheese from Zingerman' s (in Ann Arbor, MI) to Seattle and it took several launderings to get the cheese smell out of my clothes!

        1 Reply
        1. re: chococat

          Newspaper absorbs odors and acts as an insulation.

        2. is there any chance you can just pack the cheese in it's own cooler and check the cooler? or even in a separate hardshell suitcase? or even in a cardboard box placed in a duffle, if you want to carry it on.

          Keeping it still/unbanged up, moderated temperature and away from your clothes are the priorities (other than customs)

          If you have to seal it in plastic for that long is definately going to make it sweat so if that's a must, hopefully you can let it sit for a few hours between landing and serving

          Wrapping it in paper and in it's own carrier is better so it can breath on it's trip.

          1. I did the exact same thing last year. I bought a Stilton and Mongomery Cheddar from Neals Yard and wrapped them again in plastic. I was flying from London to San Francisco. I carried them on, and put them in a cold room immediately after. But thinking back I would have packed them in my checked bags. The last 3 trips I have taken, the cabin seems a bit on the warm side. As long as they are not runny cheeses, you can bring them in. I declared them and had no problem at SFO

            1. I bring back cheese from NYC all the time. I just keep it well wrapped and put it in my checked luggage. It stays very cold in the cargo hold of the plane.