Keeping Cheese Fresh

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Have you ever had cheese go moldy after a short time in the fridge? You can avoid this unpleasant experience by following a few simple tips to keep cheese fresh.

Shelf Life

First of all, you should know the shelf life of the type of cheese you are storing. Generally, hard cheeses, like Cheddar and Swiss, last longer than soft cheeses, like Brie. Once opened, Cheddar and Swiss last about 24-28 days in the fridge. Soft cheeses last only about 5 – 7 days.

If the stored cheese appears to be extremely dry, has a slimy texture or has an “off” odour, you should discard it.

If there is mold on the cheese, cut off about ½ an inch from the cheese to ensure that the mold is completely removed. You can then eat the remaining cheese.

Storing Cheese

The enzymes and bacteria in cheese need air and moisture to survive. Proper storage is essential to maintaining cheese for its full shelf life.

Optimum storage of cheese involves temperature, location in the fridge and proper wrapping.

The ideal temperature for cheese storage is 35-45 ºF (1.6-7.2 ºC). Temperatures that are too low can affect the natural aging of cheese, so cheese should be stored in a warmer part of the fridge. Many cheese industry experts recommend that you use the bottom vegetable crisper to store cheese. As with most dairy products and eggs, you should avoid the door for storage because of temperature fluctuations there.

There is some question over the best way to wrap hard cheeses. Some people believe that it is okay to use plastic wrap, but most claim that tight wrapping in plastic is not ideal for most cheeses. Instead, you should use waxed or parchment paper or aluminum foil. You can store wrapped cheese in a loose fitting plastic food bag. You can also use a food bag for unwrapped cheese, as long as you allow some air inside the bag. For naturally dry cheeses, like Parmesan or Asiago, use plastic wrap to prevent the cheese from losing excessive moisture. No matter how you choose to store your cheese, you should change the wrapping every few days.

Semi-soft cheeses, like Brie, should be wrapped in parchment or waxed paper. They can also be stored in plastic containers. Soft, fresh cheeses, like Feta, should always be stored in a plastic container.

Cheeses with strong aromas, like Blue, should be double-wrapped and stored in an airtight container to prevent their odours from mingling with other foods in the refrigerator.

Freezing is not recommended for cheese because of potential changes to its texture and taste. If you do decide to freeze cheese, you might find that it is good only for cooking because it will be somewhat dry and crumbly after thawing. Thaw frozen cheese in the refrigerator and do not keep it in the freezer any longer than two months.

Serving Cheese

With the exception of fresh cheeses, which should be kept cold until serving time, you should let cheeses get to room temperature before serving. The warmer temperature brings out the flavor of the cheese. Try not to cut too much – smaller pieces of leftover cheese will dry out faster when returned to the refrigerator.

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