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Good Gruyere Cheese (Quickly) Gone Bad? [moved from Home Cooking]

I bought a pre-cut, tightly wrapped in plastic, refrigerated block of gruyere cheese just one day ago from a nice Italian shop. The cheese sells quick at this spot, and I've never had trouble with molds, bacteria or rancidity.

In the past, I've kept my cheeses in plastic Ziplocs in the refrigerator due to these aforementioned fears of rancidity, molds and/or bacteria (nonindigenous to the cheese, of course). Here's the problem: I can never wait long enough for my cheese to return to room temperature before snarfing it down. Thus, I'm left with rubbery and flavorless cheese. Ugh...

I started out eating this gruyere from the refrigerator before finally recognizing my folly. I put the cheese (cold, probably 40 degrees Fahrenheit), still in its tight Ziploc, in an airtight OXO container and placed it in my pantry. My thinking was: Fewer exposed surfaces, the better...

It's worth noting that circulation in my Brooklyn apartment's kitchen is piss poor. Meaning, I wouldn't be surprised if the temperature was measured close to 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit in that cabinet. Roughly four hours later, when I took out the gruyere to include in tomorrow's lunch, the cheese was elastic and... almost sweaty.

I've attached an admittedly poor image taken with my Flip Cam (because I honestly don't have a real camera). Mind you, the cheese looks like it's sweating in the photo, but, before, when it came out of the Ziploc, it had a full sheen, without any dry spots, as if it just played four quarters of a basketball game. Hopefully that'll help with the diagnosis.

I understand it's a hot environment, and it would be best stored in a cool (not cold) environment. (Not sure what that could be, but still...) I now know the cheese would have been better off without the Ziploc bag.

As mentioned, this was my first experiment with storing cheese outside of the refrigerator, so, sadly, I have no idea if the smell is now 'off' or whether it's just that of a 'stinky cheese.' I'd be inclined to say it smells rather normal, though...

I just don't want to eat this stuff tomorrow and regret it. What do you think?

Should I chuck the cheese and not risk sickness?

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  1. ... General cheese handling tips would be more than welcome too; although, I know those are littered throughout older threads. In general, what is the ideal environment to store cheese at room temperature (or slightly above). Thanks!

    1. don't waste that cheese! put it in the fridge and eat it tomorrow.

      the internet is a wonderful thing to behold: http://www.google.com/search?client=s...

      1. no, it's not bad, it's been warmed. The crystals are salts and amino acids, but it's FINE.

        1. I'd eat it.

          Generally speaking, the warmer parts of a fridge are the door compartments and any shelving near the top. You can wrap hard cheeses in parchment or waxed paper, and then in plastic, or place the paper wrapped pieces in tupperware, or you can just put the unwrapped cheese in tupperware with a damp paper towel, too. Hard cheese might lose some moisture and develop crystallization, but that's just aging. They're still entirely edible. Softer cheeses are a little trickier to keep, so it's best to buy what you'll eat within a few days. Some people will say you should store cheese in the colder part of your fridge, but that's just not been my experience. So, I stick with the door compartments or top shelf usually.

          1. Enjoy it...any moisture is water or oils trapped in the cheese itself - it makes its way to the surface when the cheese relaxes as it warms.

            Don't be afraid of cheese -- it's a living creature and will suffocate if it's sealed in a plastic bag or Tupperware. Just waxed paper will be fine.

            Cheese is pretty much okay unless it's covered with pink or orange growth...green and white mold can be cut off with no ill effects..but funky colors mean it's a bad bacteria and needs to be chucked.

            (I was floored the time I put a *real* Brie in my fridge for a couple of days -- the bloom on the rind grew back over the cut edge and sealed the cheese. Pretty cool)

            16 Replies
            1. re: sunshine842

              pink and orange are bad? you can't scrape them off?

              1. re: alkapal

                Yeah -- pink and orange are the hardcore baddies. Scraping and cutting won't get rid of them -- just chuck it.

                Green and white are the benign ones -- some scrape them off, some prefer to cut them off with a 1/2" margin so as to get rid of all of the "roots" (USDA recommendation) ...then there are those who eat it anyway.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  is there some citation you can provide on the "baddies"? i haven't found much science at all, googling -- just vaguely similar admonitions (like yours, no offense intended).

                  >>>>"""The big aspect of cheese mold acceptability is that you stay away from any black, orange, or pink molds. These are no good and can be a true detriment to your cheeseā€¦and potentially your sensitive stomach if eaten in large doses."""<<<< http://www.wastedfood.com/2008/06/10/...

                  there are a couple of qualifiers in that sentence that make me think it ain't so bad to cut off the pink or orange mold and eat the cheese in moderation....

                  this usda info sheet isn't much more helpful!!!! http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/m...
                  Hard cheese
                  (not cheese where mold is part of the processing) Use. Cut off at least 1 inch around and below the mold spot (keep the knife out of the mold itself so it will not cross-contaminate other parts of the cheese). After trimming off the mold, re-cover the cheese in fresh wrap. Mold generally cannot penetrate deep into the product.

                  Cheese made with mold
                  (such as Roquefort, blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Brie, Camembert)
                  Discard soft cheeses such as Brie and Camembert if they contain molds that are not a part of the manufacturing process.
                  If surface mold is on hard cheeses such as Gorgonzola and Stilton, cut off mold at least 1 inch around and below the mold spot and handle like hard cheese (above). Molds that are not a part of the manufacturing process can be dangerous.

                  Soft cheese
                  (such as cottage, cream cheese, Neufchatel, chevre, Bel Paese, etc.) Crumbled, shredded, and sliced cheeses (all types) Discard.
                  Foods with high moisture content can be contaminated below the surface. Shredded, sliced, or crumbled cheese can be contaminated by the cutting instrument. Moldy soft cheese can also have bacteria growing along with the mold.""""<<<<

                  1. re: alkapal

                    i've started a thread on this topic over on General Chowhounding.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      Not sure why I'm answering this here -- your other post has a pretty detailed explanation.

                      Bottom line is...pink and orange (I'm talking a neon-orange or bubblegum-pink slime here...not something you'd confuse with the ruddy orange of a healthy cheese rind) are bad...they are doubly bad on soft cheeses.

                      Is the $5 you're tossing in the garbage to get rid of a potentially toxic cheese really worth the risk of landing your butt in the hospital?

                      Not to me. Pink and orange go in the trash.

                      Soft cheese -- discard
                      Shredded cheese -- discard
                      Sliced cheese

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Headache, nausea, fever, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and possibly death.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Let's not get too melodramatic. Death is a really remote outcome, but agreed that pink and orange molds are to be avoided, along with molds of some other colors. See the other thread for my fuller explanation.


                            1. re: sunshine842

                              sunshine, what we have here is a failure to communicate.

                              i'm looking for scientific citations and factual references about the molds, and their effects on humans.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                The answers you are looking for would most likely be found in dairy science textbooks and reference books or by asking dairy scientists who specialize in cheese and milk used for cheesemaking. Two places where such experts can be found are the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese and the University of Wisconsin Department of Dairy Science.

                                As for a failure to communicate, you bear some of the responsibility for that. You framed your question (on the other thread) as a practical one. You have a piece of cheese with pink/orange mold that you are aren't sure if you should throw out. That doesn't require a dairy specialist, a microbiologist or a scientific treatise to answer. I'm quite knowledgeable about cheese (a former cheese shop owner) and feel that I can answer most practical questions thrown at me. The answers that I and sunshine gave are ones that reputable cheesemongers would give. I'm sorry that you found them to be of little value to you.

                                1. re: cheesemaestro

                                  yes, i'm sorry too. you both have a problem giving me the science i want to know. that's ok. you're not food scientists. maybe i'll do further research in dairyland.

                                  edit: see, this is the type of info i like: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10...

                                  my problem, with MOST of what i'm seeing is that nobody is explaining why pink and orange = bad mold. if i've missed that discussion, please do show me. thanks.

                                  you see, i want to *understand,* and not just be told what i should do. that's how i roll.

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    The short answer is that some species of pink and orange molds that can colonize on/in cheese produce toxins. (I think I said that in my response on the other thread.) However, you want the long answer: which species of molds are apt to colonize cheeses, of these, which ones are harmful to humans, what color does each harmful species of mold appear as, what kind of toxins are produced, what specific effects do these toxins have on the body, etc. Those are definitely questions for dairy scientists to address.

                                    1. re: cheesemaestro

                                      hey, no offense meant. peace to all! and a happy cheese experience.

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        No offense taken. Good luck finding the answers to your questions, and if you come upon anything interesting or useful, let us know. I'm still not too old to learn some new tricks!

                                        I did want to address one other thing in one of your posts: scraping mold off a cheese. Scraping and rubbing are poor methods of removing mold. As you move your knife/cloth/paper towel across the surface of the cheese, you can easily spread the mold spores to other parts. You may not see any mold after you've removed the visible stuff, but a couple of days later, you shouldn't be surprised to see another colony that you've created elsewhere on the surface. Instead, you should always cut into the cheese away from the mold and excise the bad part.

                  2. re: sunshine842

                    Sunshine, I've found that many cheeses just age too quickly if wrapped only in paper? They can be shredded down to the moister core, but the dry shreds are really only palatable in something, like an omelet, etc. where they melt. The plastic wrap should be loose, in my experience, but it helps retain some moisture. it's basically just a way to keep in some humidity, since refrigerators work by sucking all the moisture out of the box.

                    1. re: amyzan

                      Waxed paper in an open plastic bag, perhaps.

                  3. I've never heard of an aged cheese making someone sick, don't worry about it. If it tastes good to you, then eat it.

                    1. It's fine, it's condensation and/or oils. Semi hard cheese like Gruyere always do that. Gruyere has a really strong odor which I love.

                      1. Hey everyone, thanks for the info! I want to keep the smell contained, so do you think storing in an airtight OXO container (with plenty of air surrounding it in the container) would be OK?

                        1. The chance that your cheese will cause illness (especially after being in fine condition just yesterday) is about as close to zero as it gets. Many Europeans don't refrigerate cheeses, even soft ones, that they plan to consume within a few days.

                          The moisture you saw after leaving the cheese out could have been condensation from humidity, but is more likely to be fat rising to the surface. This is very common with sheep's milk cheeses, but can also be seen on cow's milk cheeses.

                          You're right that cheese should be brought to room temperature for maximum flavor. The proper way to do that, however, is to unwrap it and put it on a plate or board. It should NOT be covered. This assumes that you'll be eating it within a few hours at most. My rule of thumb is to take a small piece of cheese out of the refrigerator about an hour before eating it. Larger pieces need a little longer to warm up--between an hour and a half and two hours.

                          Wrapped cheeses do not need to be hermetically sealed. Indeed, that's detrimental to their flavor. Cheese is best surrounded by a layer of wrapping that can breathe. If you buy your cheese from a store that wraps with genuine cheese paper, rewrap the unused portion in that paper. If you're cheese comes in plastic wrap, rewrap it when you get it home. You can follow the suggestion made by another poster. Wrap the cheese first in a semi-permeable paper like wax paper or parchment paper, then overwrap it LOOSELY with plastic wrap. This both gives the cheese some breathing room and protects it against loss of moisture. The best place to keep your cheese in the refrigerator is in your vegetable bin, where the humidity is highest.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: cheesemaestro

                            Why do you recommend only a couple-hour window to eat cheese from the refrigerator? This doesn't seem to jive with your earlier comment that unrefrigerated gruyere, for instance, remains safe over several days...

                            1. re: cheesemaestro

                              Am I incorrect in assuming your recommendation is because of the possibility of oil 'sweating' from the cheese? This gruyere was sitting in a small puddle of oil after roughly 24-30 hours.

                              1. re: slaman

                                Unwrapped cheese dries out when it is left out for too long. So when you take cheese out of the refrigerator and unwrap it to warm it up, you should eat it within a few hours and then rewrap any remaining cheese. When I said that some people don't refrigerate their cheese, I didn't mean to say that they keep the cheese unwrapped the whole time. Cheese left out for more than a few hours should be wrapped.

                                1. re: cheesemaestro

                                  said Europeans usually keep their cheese in a cheese box (a plastic box with a secure but not airtight lid, sometimes with a filter to cut down on the aromatic elements)...so it can breathe, but is still protected from drying out.

                                  Even when taking it out of the fridge to warm up, most folks I know arrange it on the platter, then cover it with a tea towel or even a couple of paper towels to keep out foreign matter, bugs (no window screens in Europe) and to slow the dehydration.

                            2. Well, I just opened 9.95 oz. of refrigerated shrink-wrapped Gruyere, and it smelled JUST like limburger! I like limburger fine, but am not sure after reading the comments below whether this is safe. Also I was planning to use it (along with some other cheeses) in a recipe for macaroni and cheese, which I am making for the people who show up in our church's alley on Friday evenings to be fed. I don't want to risk stinking up the whole recipe, so will substitute some other kind of cheese. (Grating the cheese for the recipe wasn't enticing me, either.) I'll email my son-in-law about it when he gets off work. He knows a lot of stuff. Then maybe I can down it.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Dolldsign5

                                Now that it's been four hours, does it still smell bad? Sometimes cheese that's been shrinkwrapped just needs to breathe for a while.