At its prime ripeness, living cheese is a perfect but fragile balance of aroma, taste, texture and appearance. Proper handling and storage can mean the difference between vibrant, delicious, living cheese and dead, ammoniated, spoiled cheese.
Some Helpful Information about Cheese
Cheese is the result of the slow interaction between milk solids (protein), micro-fauna that exist in raw milk, molds or cultures that are introduced by the cheese maker (or the affineur) and the environment in which the cheese is matured and/or aged. Some types of cheese — in full, uncut wheels – can age for many years while their flavor, aroma and texture improve over time. However, not all cheeses improve with age. Once a wheel is cut and the rind is broken, the cheese begins to deteriorate, and small pieces of cheese have an even shorter lifespan than large wheels. That does not necessarily mean cheese will spoil immediately. But unless properly handled and stored, the cheese can quickly lose its distinctive taste, texture and appearance.
There are many types of cheeses and no single way to store all types. However, there are general rules than can greatly reduce premature spoilage. We have compiled a few tips that should help keep your cheese alive and tasting scrumptious.
Do not wrap cheese in conventional non-porous materials. Cheese needs to breathe.
The delicate flavor balance achieved by the cheese maker requires oxygen exchange and storage at the proper humidity. Non-porous materials suffocate cheese, causing the dreaded ammonia flavor (particularly in soft cheeses). Non-porous materials also trap too much moisture within, accelerating the growth of invasive surface molds.
Never underestimate the value of an experienced cheesemonger.
Ask your cheesemonger to suggest cheeses in season and at their prime. Always taste before you buy; cheese that has been cut to order is always the freshest (and tastiest!) option. For the best possible flavor, try to avoid plastic-wrapped, pre-cut pieces.
Be mindful of the “cut & packaged date” printed on pre-cut cheese.
If this is how you buy your cheese, always make sure the cut date is within a day of purchase. When you get home, rescue your cheese from plastic suffocation and rewrap in proper cheese paper.