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Nov 16, 2011 11:08 AM

Best way to store my delicious cheese for another 5 days? [moved from France]

I am returned from a fantastic trip to Paris.
I will be posting some info about our glorious meals over the weekend (I'll give you one spoiler: Le Cinq was perfect. The best meal I've ever had in Paris, in every respect)

In the meantime...

I have returned with a variety of cheeses (Epoisses, Reblochon, Comte, Tomme, 3 kinds of goat cheese...).

At the store, they wrapped them in their special paper and then vacuum packed them.
I managed to keep them cool in transit -- some nice barkeep gave me a big bag of ice once I'd passed through security.

Now they are home and in my fridge, still in their vacuum packs.
I'm having friends over in 5 days to partake.

How should I store it all until then?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide....

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  1. take them out of the vacuum packs - pronto -- French cheeses are very much alive, and you want them to be able to breathe.

    Now wrap them in waxed paper (better yet, go down to the butcher shop and beg some of that coated white paper!) and put them back into the fridge.


    10 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      what sunshine842 said. I am planning to do exactly what you did in a couple of weeks. My friends are already salivating thinking about the cheese I'm bringing home. :)

      1. re: sunshine842

        Okay, will do as soon as I get home today.

        So, what happens if you leave it in the vacuum pack too long?
        And how long is too long?

        1. re: pauliface

          We forgot to take our most recent chunks out of their indiividual vacuum packs for about five days, and if it hurt our 4-Comte or 5-yr Guryere from Dubois, we have not noticed. Maybe DCM could tell the difference, but we are happily in ignorant bliss. That reminds me shave off a few more tastes tonight. -- Jake

          1. re: Jake Dear

            Hard cheeses are far more tolerant of abuse - but a Brie or a fresh chevre will begin to degrade pretty quickly.

            (yes, this is based on observations in my own fridge)

          2. re: pauliface

            If you leave it in the vacuum pack, the organisms that create the cheese die, and decay begins to set in.

            With soft cheeses like Epoisses and Reblochon and perhaps the chevres, quite quickly -- the harder Comte and Tomme will take being sealed up far better for far longer.

          3. re: sunshine842

            I actually disagree with all this advice. I would have kept them chilled and vacumn packed. The soft cheese would have been best a few days after purchase (unless it was from a poor supplier thahad not matured the cheese) and thu by the time you purchased it, travelled to the US and got home it would start to be getting past it's best. Add a further 5 days waiting around to be served for guests and you can almost guarantee it will no longer be great. If you keep it vacum packed it really does slow maturation and you have a better chance of the cheese being good.

            1. re: PhilD

              Ha! Well no wonder I was confused. I tried researching this before posting here, and could not find any consistent recommendation. The same seems to be true here at chowhound.

              So, it seems I have split the difference. It was vacuum packed for 4 days, and will be in the fridge another 4 days.

              i'll report back after Sunday and let you all know how it turned out...

              1. re: PhilD

                The biggest reason I'm careful to never suffocate cheese was a little magic right after we moved. I'd bought an industrial mini-Brie (we ate it, but that learning curve was VERY short) -- ate a wedge from it, then wrapped it in cheese paper and put it in the fridge before we went out of town for a few days. I was gobsmacked when I unwrapped it and found that the flora had grown back over the cut edges -- it was completely healed with the bloomy white rind.

                Then I visited a small artisanal Brie producer and saw the care and love that they put into their products...and their recommendation is to always ensure that your cheese can breathe and continue I do like I was told.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  I totally agree a cheese should breathe, wrapping it in plastic is not going to do it any flavours. But isn't the issue here that you are trying to keep cheese for far longer than a good cheese shop would recommend - and I don't mean the sterile, inert supermarket cheeses, because I assume the OP has bought raw artisan cheese (after all pasteurized French cheese is exported and no different in the US or France).

                  So how do slow this down? Most fridges help as they are too cold for cheese and tend to nearly stop maturation an in effect kill th cheese (best to keep good cheese cool not cold), but if you want to achieve the maximum delay then chill it. But, most fridges these days also dehydrate food as their systems extract water, if you simply wrap cheese in paper it will slowly dehydrate in a fridge. So if vacumn packed the sealed plastic stops dehydration, as well as maintaining an anaerobic environment which starves the aerobic bacteria that ripen cheese of oxygen, again slowing down the process.

                  So taking a cheese in prime condition from France and wanting to eat it after its prime you need to use lots of tricks to keep it fresh, hence vac packing and chilling makes the most sense. Of course you could try and find an affineur which will sell you really unripe cheese, I suspect that is the best bet, does anyone know if any do? I assume they wouldn't risk their reputation to serve this niche market though.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Despite my pleas, leaving Paris in a couple of days, etc., Alléosse flatly refused to sell me a cheese that was not ready.+

            2. Cheeses kept in plastic wrap will begin to 'die' quickly. Have found those kept in cryopac will continue to change, many times to the good. Some years back a wonderful arome du gene at R Richards in Lyon covered market. It was cryopacked and l forgot about it. When finally opened 6 months later it had changed from a seed covered dense disc to a gooey seed covered wonder that l have never experienced again. l have old gruyeres in my cheese fridge in the States that have been packed for 7 or more years, they are burbling along just fine. Actually brought an old one here for a dinner l was cooking this trip, it was awesome. Maybe just me but those in cryopac stop evolving generally and stay at whatever age you put them in. Think the harder or drier the cheeses are they are the more successful they will remain in the cryopac. If one of the chevres is alone in it's wrap, leave it for a few months to see what will happen.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                Well after the other posts yesterday, I ran home and removed the cheeses from the vacuum pack. They are now in their original paper wrapping from the store, in my vegetable bin.

                Should I leave them as is at this point until Sunday?

                (It is much harder to resist and wait until Sunday to eat these now that they are so easy to get at....)

                1. re: pauliface

                  This time of year the outside where the temp goes from 35-55 is a perfect cheese fridge. My apt in Paris has a cheese shelf outside the back window and that is where mine are now. Hope your Epoisses is Gaugry, au lait cru. If they are wrapped well from the store, you can put them all in a giant ziploc, if you have birds or animals who can get them, and outside taking them in about 2-4 hours before serving, enjoy. Many cheeses in large sections as Abondance, Gruyere, cave aged Emmentaler are kept by distributors in cryopac with no negatives, Whenever l get a whole large round of something hard, l take one section for now, and divide up the rest and pac it, lasts forever.

              2. I'm glad you've got them out of the vacuum pack. 5 days in that would surely destroy them.

                I recommend that you keep the Epoisse and the chevres (assuming that they're young, soft ones) in the warmest part of your fridge. The others should be kept at something between 45- 55 degree F if possible.
                None of the three semi-hard cheeses should present a problem so long as they're not kept in higher temperature dry environments.
                For future reference NEVER allow cheese to be vacuum packed. I know it can be difficult to get cheeses into the states, but they'll be much better off wrapped in paper (as in a grocery bag) and shipped in your hold baggage unless that is you have a very friendly member of cabin staff who will store your paper bag full of cheese in the cool part of the galley.
                I once managed to bring home (to SF at the time) a whole (14 Lbs) Stilton this way.

                19 Replies
                1. re: Yank

                  Yank, one is very likely to have cheese that is NOT vacuum packed confiscated, no matter where they are packed. Having them vacuum packed ensures you will be bringing them home. It's the Customs dogs that will get you.

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    Just returned from Paris to Lisbon with several Munster cheeses bought at Orly and by the time we made it to the bus deplaning at Faro airport, I had to explain to the other passengers where the smell came from... so yes, vacuum pack if you have a chance, preferably with the cheeses in their box so they don't squash!

                    1. re: monchique

                      and your suitcase will pong of cheese for months. Vacuum pack it.

                  2. re: Yank

                    As I reported in a recent post, I too bought a bunch of cheese home from Paris. If they had not been vacuum packed, I'm quite sure that I'd never have gotten them through customs - you didn't need a dog to smell those babies. As soon as I un-vacuumed one package on arrival, the, er, aroma was unbelievable. I certainly couldn't have taken them on as carry-on (besides, the runny camemberts may have been considered a "gel") and if packed in my luggage, I would probably have had to burn everything including the suitcase. At any rate, the one package was opened on arrival, but the other one stayed vac-packed for almost a week with no deterioration that I could notice. In that second package was a comte, a fourme d'ambert and a lovely chevre I can't remember the name of now. Best souvenir ever.

                    1. re: Nyleve

                      Speaking of customs, you won't believe what happened. I was carrying the cheese in my carry on.
                      When I was LEAVING Paris, at Charles de Gaulle, they pulled my back aside after it went through the scanner.
                      The woman pulled the cheese (in its pack) out of the back, and asked me what it was. I said it was cheese. She said, no, you can't bring this through. I said, why not? It's just cheese. She then pointed to the sign that said no liquids, gels, or pastes. I said, yes, so what's the problem. She then pointedly pointed to the word "paste" or rather "pates" in French, and said that the cheese was a paste.
                      I told her that was ridiculous, I've brought cheese through tons of times before, and that moreover it was like $100 worth of cheese.
                      She eventually let me go through, with the warning that this was forbidden and I should not try it again.

                      I had no such problem in the US securtiy checkpoint when I changed planes in Chicago. Nor did I have any issue with customs.

                      Just a warning...

                      1. re: pauliface

                        This is exactly what I suspected could happen. You only got through, I think, because the screener was French and understood the value of cheese. If it happened in the US (they probably just didn't notice it) they would have taken the cheese away and, furthermore, pitched it in the trash.

                        1. re: pauliface

                          FWIW, I always pack cheese, even vacuum packed cheese, in a Tupperware container. It prevents the cheeses from getting squashed (even Epoisses boxes have been flattened when put loose in the luggage) and contains the "aroma".

                          1. re: mangeur

                            I'm guessing you bring the Tupperware from home in US?

                            1. re: ChefJune

                              No - you can buy Tupperware in France -- you can even attend Tupperware parties! (which is somewhat surreal...)

                              I can heartily recommend their 'cave a fromages' -- called a CheeSmart box in English -- it has a proprietary plastic membrane in the lid (where the charcoal filter goes in a Tefal cheese box) that can be handwashed and never needs to be replaced.

                              You can put your funkiest cheese in it and it will stay moist -- and the refrigerator won't smell like feet -- for amazingly long periods of time. I bought the small one and it's great. Nobody falls over when they open my fridge any more.

                              1. re: ChefJune

                                Actually, I do. I bring them stuffed with gifts for French friends, or clean, soft clothing, or... We also wash and save lidded plastic take-out containers while there. My husband tends to buy small, fragile things that get packed in these for safe return flights. Too, we find that the better protected stuff is coming home, the less mess and problems from TSA inspection.

                                1. re: mangeur

                                  It's always a good idea to "sub-package" things going into your luggage -- clothes in plastic bags, etc -- then the inspectors can just scan the packages -- then they can just put the packages back in your luggage and move on to their next victim, erm, bag to scan.

                                  Most of them don't want to touch your dirty laundry any more than you want them to touch it -- so if it's sub-packaged, everybody's happy (and they just might get it all back into your bag in some sort of order.)

                            2. re: pauliface

                              Yes cheese and other foods often won't make it through airport security (on the way out) so pack it in hand luggage at your own risk. The application of the rule does vary from country to country but security staff are often just as draconian in each country.

                              1. re: pauliface

                                This has happened to me too - but not with all cheese. I've been told that pate cuit are ok but pate molle are banned.

                                One time I went through with two jars - one of "pâté", the other of "terrine". The jars and their contents were very similar. The terrine made it through, but the pêté (a paste) didn't.

                                In my experience, the British let all cheese through. The French will let cheese through if it's in a sandwich.

                              2. re: Nyleve

                                I travel to France twice a year and always bring cheese back. Only occasionally have I had it vacuum packed. That's mainly because it's only recently that my favorite fromagerie, Alléosse in the rue Poncelet, has had its own vacuum machine.

                                The cheese is always in my checked luggage and always declared. I have never had it questioned. I should note that I don't buy cheeses where "the, er, aroma was unbelievable." If I had, I'd probably go for vacuum packing. But I have had runny cheeses like Mont d'Or and soft bries.

                                In answer to the original question, when it has been vacuum packed, I remove the packing immediately on arrival home. Then I keep it in the special cheese paper they use in France, or that I have bought here in the US.

                                1. re: RandyB

                                  Randy - if in checked baggage no probs with security on the way out it is only cabin baggage that there is a risk of confiscation. On entry though customs depends on the country - sounds like the US is fine.

                                  The bit that intrigues me is that people seem to be keeping soft cheese for so long. My local was Barthelemy in the 7eme and thy woud happily sell cheese ready for today, tommorrow or the next day but discouraged purchases much further out a their great cheese would be way past its best. I remember once asking for recommendation for a cheese board for Christmas day which was nearly a week away, I was nearly thrown out of the shop, with much gesticulation and clucking from the servers - we were regulars so it was tongue in cheek but got the point across.

                                  Is Cheese in the US so bad that slightly off French cheese that I past it's best better than local produce? I thought US artisan cheese was now getting really good (there is a great Australian cheese show "Cheese Slices" on TV featuring Will Studd who toured lots of great looking places in Wisconsin and Vermont)

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    Yes. The cheese in the US is no comparison to the better cheeses of France. Give me a slightly off French cheese any day.

                                    Recently, on another thread, someone said that they liked the Cowgirl Creamery "Red Hawk" more than Epoisses. I got very excited about having a local alternative, and when I saw one at the store, and it smelled amazing, I was shivering with anticipation. Unfortunately, though it smelled like an epoisses, it did not taste like one. Very weak flavor, with a texture more fudgy/firm than soft.. Put it this way; after I had a couple of tastes, I decided I did not want to waste the fat calories eating more of it; I left the rest to my boyfriend (who eats anything) and saved the stomach space for other things...

                                    I'd rather have one of those held-for-60-days, pasteurized Epoisses imported from France than a Red Hawk.

                                    1. re: pauliface

                                      Red Hawk is 'fudgier' as you say as it is in essence a triple cream. However, when l get mine fro the creamery in SFO or Point Reyes it should be as smelly as an Epoisses. Next time to France try the Corsican cheeses such as a Pecorino Cru or a De Filleta, they are smellier than an Epoisses, and perfect texture as is a Maroilles, a Vieux Lille, and older Gerome-Muenster.

                                    2. re: PhilD

                                      I think one has to put this in context. Chowhounders are a rarified group. We buy our cheeses at places like Barthelemy or Alléosse. Would the average Parisian buying cheese at Price Leader or Monoprix get the same advice? Would you be confident that the cheese at one of those stores was properly cared for and sold only at the correct time?

                                      There are many comparisons one could consider. I live in a rural area of Washington. The largest town nearby is 1,200. Most of my friends, who are far from rich, would be aghast at the popularity of Picard in France. The only frozen vegetables they would eat are ones they froze themselves.

                                      Similarly, in my whole valley, population less than 5,000, we have three coffee roasters. Any one of them offers a better product than most coffee roasters in France. Of course, that may be the Seattle influence.

                                      Coming back to cheese, there are some wonderful artisan cheeses made in the US. They do best when considered on their own merits, not as imitations of French cheeses. Imagine someone tasting a perfect aged Stilton and saying it's a bad imitation of a bleu. Or an aged Barolo wine from Italy and trying to compare it to some Burgundy.

                                      Visit any farmer's market in the US and you will see local cheese products. A few will be very good, others mediocre at best. But it is still a very young industry. The producers have a lot to learn. So overall, it does not compare to France. Remember, there was a time when one could have said the same for US wines. Then they started winning major competitions in Europe and world opinion changed.

                                      So, `Is Cheese in the US so bad that slightly off French cheese that is past its best is better than local produce?' I think you can tell from my comments above that my answer is no. Would I rather have a raw milk Reblochon that is a few days older than optimum than no Reblochon at all? Yes. A smelly Reblochon, no.

                                      1. re: RandyB

                                        Randy - thanks for the insight - I must admit I am still keen to try these when I next get to the US. It Is great to see emerging artisan industries. The TV show was great to showcase the US cheese fanatics who looked like they are trying to do their own thing not copy other countries.

                              3. Many years ago, stressing the living quality of French cheeses, a cheesemaker friend told me not to separately wrap cheeses in plastic but to place them together--soft, hard, the whole nine yards--unwrapped in a tupperware container in the fridge--not touching but snuggled in there together. it's worked fine for me.

                                1. I learned the following from my fiance's aunt, who lives in Paris and loves her cheese.
                                  Wrap the cheese in parchment or waxed paper. Get a platter. Place lettuce leaves on the platter. Place the cheese (wrapped) on top of the lettuce. Keep in the fridge. Take the cheese out at least two hours before you serve. Take the paper off the cheese, set the unwrapped cheese on top of the lettuce and cover with a dish towel. The cheese stays fresher this way. She's been doing it for years, passed it on to me, and this is what I do with my cheese nowadays.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: jarona

                                    Jarona - I bet the aunt only kept the cheese for hours or a day or two before finishing it. in France cheese is generally bought in small amounts and bought regularity so people don't really keep it for very long at all - cheese shops will ask if you want to eat it, either today or tommorrow, because they will select different cheeses for you depending on when you want to eat it. Many people in France, especially Paris, still shop daily rather than only once a week for the big supermarket shop.

                                    1. re: PhilD

                                      Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen recommends cheese paper. I think it's a breathable plastic film with paper over it. My local store in town uses it and I do, too.

                                      I asked them via email how some good, farmhouse English cheddars are prepacked in England in plastic and obviously stay sealed in plastic for quite a while before they are sold, opened, and eaten. They seem to arrive in very good condition. The person who replied said they were aware of this but had no explanation.

                                      So much for food science.

                                      1. re: RandyB

                                        Randy - it's te difference between short and medium/long term. The cheese paper or wooden box for some cheeses is perfect for short term as it breathes slightly. Longer term, for shipping and if pushing the cheese past it's usual best by time, then sealed plastic works as it slows the bacterial growth. Good English cheese is shipped after many months maturation as it ripens slowly thus a very different commodity from the very fresh soft French cheeses that have much shorter maturation times and short window of eating perfection (French hard cheese I obviously has similar properties to English hard cheese).

                                        1. re: RandyB

                                          the cheese paper sold in France (I think your description is right) -- really makes an **enormous** difference in keeping cheese -- with that paper, it doesn't dry out.

                                          I usually keep it in the paper from the fromager, then put the smelly stuff in the container I mentioned elsewhere.

                                        2. re: PhilD

                                          PhilD Oh..yeah--you're right. When we go to the market she gets smaller portions and we end up going on our cheese runs about every second or third day. That's carried over to us at home too. Unless it is for a "feast" type of meal, like Thanksgiving. We make our cheese purchases smaller and more frequently. Thanks for the reminder~