Hi there fellow CH-ers!
My local market usually has huge chunks of Grana Padano for a pretty reasonable price, but yesterday they had in their deli vacuum packed bags of the same cheese, shredded. When asked, I was told they had taken all the bigs chunks and shredded and packaged them for re-sale. The new price is $24.79/kg ($11.30/lb). This is incredibly cheap since I usually pay as much as $40-50/kg for parm (granted, it is usually Reggiano and not Grana), but this is still a great price! My question is, can I freeze these bags unopened, and if so, for how long? How much will the flavour be diminished? Or, if I just keep them in the coldest part of my fridge, how long before they spoil? Thanks!!
Yes, you can. Most authorities will tell you you can freeze hard cheeses for six months, but I've frozen them for as long as a year with no noticeable deterioration. Mine, though, were in a solid block, not already shredded. That could well make a difference.
The problem with frozen cheese isn't in the freezing, it's in the thawing. Thawed cheese doesn't last in the fridge anywhere near as long as fresh. You'll want to make sure that you will be able to use up in about a week whatever amount you thaw.
I've found that hard cheese like parmesan and grana padano get crumbly and soggy after freezing and thawing so that they can't really be sliced or shaved anymore.
Questions about freezing cheese come up often on CH. I generally recommend against freezing cheese on textural grounds, although hard cheeses like Parm and Grana hold up somewhat better than softer ones, which you definitely should not freeze. Still, I'm not quite in agreement with JoanN that the problem is only in the thawing, not the freezing. Cheese survives best in a high moisture, cool place. The refrigerator is not really ideal, although it's all most people have to keep their cheese in. Your freezer, with its extreme cold and dryness, is a harsh environment for any cheese.
Your second issue is that the store chose to shred the cheese. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "shred." Grana Padano is too brittle to shred in the sense that one shreds a cheese like mozzarella. I assume that the store either grated the cheese or broke it up into small chunks or shards.That isn't good for you, the customer, since it greatly shortens the life of the cheese from the standpoint of quality. Cheese shops with knowledgeable staff rarely sell pregrated Grana or Parm. Instead, they advise customers to buy a whole piece of cheese and grate (at home) only as much as they need for that day. Properly wrapped, a whole piece will keep in in the fridge for several months, albeit with a slow loss of flavor over time.
As a former cheese shop owner, a major part of educating consumers was getting them to understand that for cheese, less is more. A good rule of thumb to follow is not to purchase more than you can consume within a reasonably short time. Cheese doesn't improve in your refrigerator. It's at is best when you buy it. There is only one way for it go, and that is downhill, which is the direction in which all cheeses inevitably head, some faster, some slower. Even for a cheese like Grana or Parm, which can be stored longer than most, it's better to buy a pound once a month I(or half a pound every two weeks) than to buy five pounds at a time and keep it for six months.
cheesemaestro, bravo! I used to work in a cheese shop and that cured me of ever buying anything pregrated or precrumbled. To save money, I buy a small amount of the best Reggiano I can get my mitts on and grate it straight onto my pasta using a rasp (the hand held kind that you're supposed to use to zest limes etc). Works like a hot damn, easy cleanup and you get the exact amount you want without actually cutting into the piece of cheese with way more flavour than you would get from using double or even triple the amount of the pregrated stuff, so actually works out to be a better value.
I did experiment with freezing hard cheeses so that I could respond from personal experience when customers asked. Never happy with the result, although a decent old cheddar could be frozen, thawed and used in a baked pasta with okay results. I would never serve a previously frozen cheese of any kind "raw" after it was thawed.
I freeze my shredded Parmesan since it is cheaper in a big container but I don't use it up before it starts to grow. I also keep pizza/shredded mix cheeses in the freezer since I never use a full bag up before it molds. I don't thaw it out at all. I just put it on whatever I make frozen and it melts just fine.
Did you buy the cheese?
Maybe this will be a help ... maybe not.
Vella Cheese in Sonoma, Ca makes a dry jack cheese. The sell it grated and tell you not to refridgerate it. They have some customers that have had the cheese for over 5 years and it mellows
The trick there is that they thouroughly dry the cheese so there is zero moisture left and then grate it. I don't know if trying to counter-dry the cheese after it has been grated would work.
I freeze darn near anything as with a 2 person household, you just can't eat everything that entices you. I have frozen pre-grated grana padno, I didn't really notice a difference. Interestingly, my local grocery store had a special on it, I looked in the plastic boxes they were selling and it was mostly rind with a wee bit of cheese left. How far down to the rind can one grate? Or are they suggesting to use the rind too? I loathe the green can but parm has gotten very pricey so I've been buying the grana for a while now. This was a first though!
Not to get all mistrusting NYer on you, but how do you know you're getting grated Grana Padano? At least when it's whole or in pieces, you can see the stamp on the rind. Grated-not so much.