We get tons of emails about this topic, so I thought I'd give a few pointers on the best practices that will allow your cheese to last longer in your fridge.
When it comes to keeping cheese fresh, you need to think about controlling two factors; Moisture and Air. As long as you balance these things, your cheese will last a ridiculously long time.
Cheese is super durable
Don't forget, cheese has been around long before we started using refrigeration. Humans have been very creative at storing it and figuring out ways to keep it for long periods of time. So there's no reason that today, with all the technology we have, that people are still throwing away cheese they purchased just last week.
In some countries (France- I'm looking at you), people keep cheese right on the counter for days at a time. Although that's quite extreme for us in North America and I wouldn't recommend it, it shows us how tough cheese is.
Moisture & Air
Moisture turns into mold and air dries the cheese out. It's pretty simple; control these two things and your cheese will live. Cheese needs to breathe, but give it too much air and it will dry out. Cheese naturally produces moisture, which is fine, but too much moisture causes mold or eventually turns the cheese to mush. It's all about balancing the two.
So unless you've invested in some type of specialty cheese wrap or bags like Formaticum, you have to work with what's available to you.
Seran wrap is hated amongst the cheese gurus, but it works for short term cheese keeping. If you're going to use it, change it often. Every time you take it out of the fridge and cut off some wedges of cheese, don't reuse the same wrap. Slightly dab it with a paper towel to remove excess moisture and wrap it in fresh seran.
Ziploc Bags cause a ton of moisture, which leads to quicker mold growth. If you're going to put your cheese in bags then wrap them in some parchment paper first. The paper will suck in any excess moisture over time. Again, change the paper often to make sure its not too wet.
Plastic containers or actually any containers, including glass, metal, etc should be treated the same as the bags. Wrap in paper first, then put it in the container.
My cheese got moldy, what should I do?
In natural cheeses, if you catch the mold in time, you can probably salvage some or most of the cheese. If there's just some surface mold, scrape it off fairly well and continue eating. If it's penetrated into the cheese, then you might have to cut off a good amount to see how far it went. Cut off until you see no more mold, plus a little more to be certain and then continue eating.
In general, never freeze artisan cheese because it destroys the texture and usually alters the flavour profiles of the cheese. The only cheeses that I see people freeze all the time with good results are grating cheeses like Parmesan and Pecorino Romano. So if you're going to melt it and cook with it later, defrost it in the fridge slowly and then use it for melting. Otherwise, there's no good reason for you to freeze cheeses.
Vacuum sealing cheese
When a cheese is vacuum sealed, you're locking in the moisture and keeping out any air. Over time, more and more water will develop on the cheese and eventually it will start to deteriorate. What I've found to work is wrapping the cheese in wax or parchment paper then sealing it. The paper will pull out the moisture for a good while until there's way too much. This will usually take a few months. It's a good way and might be the only way for you to store cheese for excessively long periods of time. Again, I don't see the need for this unless it's a rare cheese that you can't get very often.
Cheese is not cheap these days, so I hate to see people throwing anything away. Consider some of the tips above when storing cheese and you'll probably never have to throw away a moldy piece of cheese again.
Good luck cheese lovers,
Co-founder of Cheesyplace.com
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