The most important thing you cheese loving Denverites need to know about storing your artisan cheese is this: Never wrap it in plastic!
Cheese is a living, breathing thing, and wrapping it in plastic closes it off to the air and moisture it needs to survive. In other words, plastic suffocates cheese. It also prevents the cheese’s natural evaporation from escaping, which means your cheese is now sitting in a coating of water.
In addition, plastic wrap can actually impart an off flavor to the cheese, and in a day or two, your cheese will start to absorb that flavor.
So what should you do instead?
- Wrap it in paper. The best alternative is cheese paper. But if you don’t have that, use waxed or parchment paper. And then put it in a Tupperware or wrap it very loosely in plastic wrap or put it in a plastic baggie. This lets the cheese breathe a bit (not as much as it really needs to, but it’s better than nothing), prevents it from drying out and keeps out refrigerator odors.When you eat some, if you don’t consume it all, rewrap it in fresh paper. With softer cheeses, flip them over every few days so the moisture will remain evenly distributed throughout the cheese. This will prevent sogginess on any one side. Want some more instruction? Here’s a good video to show you how to do it.
- Separate the strong, pungent cheeses. Don’t combine blue cheeses or washed rind cheeses in the same bag or Tupperware as other cheese. Otherwise, they’ll pick up each other’s flavors, as well as molds.So you’ll quickly have white mold growing on your blue cheese, and blue mold growing on your camembert. It’s a cool experiment, but if that’s not what you’re going for, store them separately. Or eat them all up quickly, which is the best solution!
- Store it in the fruit bin. That’s where your refrigerator has the most consistent temperature and humidity. The fruit and vegetable bins on most refrigerators are adjustable as well – be sure to move the regulator to the ‘maximum humidity’ point. Also, moisture given off by the fruit will help the cheese stay hydrated.If you can’t do that, be sure to keep it away from the freezer, and store it in the warmest part of your fridge. You really don’t ever want to freeze cheese or over chill it.
- Except for fresh cheeses. Forget all of this if you are storing fresh cheeses like goat cheese, ricotta, or cream cheese. Basically, you keep them the same way you store milk or yogurt. Keep them in their original containers and colder than the crisper.
- Don’t forget it. Check the cheese often (daily is ideal, but seriously, who has time for that). If it looks wet and soggy, it needs more air. If it’s drying out, add some moisture by wrapping it with a damp (not wet), clean paper towel and place it back in its plastic container.
- Don’t be afraid, just scrape. If you unwrap your cheese and find something fuzzy or moldy on its surface, don’t worry. Just cut or scrape it off. The rest of the cheese is fine.That said, if it’s fresh/soft cheese with black hairy mold – called Poile de Chat, which means ‘Cat Hair’ in French, or if it’s slimy or smells like ammonia, it’s probably past its prime, and time to compost.
- Buy in small quantities. The best way to avoid throwing away cheese is to buy in small quantities. Don’t buy more than you can eat in a week. But that’s ok, because it just gives you an excuse to visit more often and find new flavors.
- Most importantly, eat it at room temperature! Refrigeration not only dries out cheese, it also kills its flavor. To get the most out of your cheese, take it out 60-90 minutes before you serve it so the peak flavor comes out.
Ok, fine, but how come the cheese is wrapped in plastic in your shop? Don’t blame us, the Health Department requires it. We HATE doing that to our cheese. Also, it would be hard for you to pick a cheese if we wrapped them in paper since you wouldn’t be able to see them.
Don’t worry though. We order just enough cheese for our demand so it’s never spending too much time in plastic. And you should see us doing what we call ‘facing’ when you ask to taste or buy some cheese: we unwrap the cheese, and take a paring knife and lightly scrape the surface of the cheese. This gets rid of that plasticky taste. And we’ll never sell you something that is past its prime. We’ll eat it ourselves before that happens!!!!