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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Don't hurt the cheese

For the holiday I went to New Hampshire for a few days. One of the things I love about going back East is the cheese. There are so many cheeses that you can't get out here in the Midwest. This year I fell in love all over again with New England. I miss living there and know in my heart that I belong back there.

Okay, enough of that tom foolery. While I was in N.H. the question was asked: "how should I store my cheese?" Well, here's what I do depending on the cheese.

Before we get into it I want you to know that you should only buy the amount of cheese you think you're going to use. With a few exceptions (Parmigiano-Reggiano, and other aged cheeses) the cheese is going to suffer the longer it stays in your fridge. This is why it's important to get your cheese from a place that will cut to order. Now I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to leave near such a place. The next best thing is to get the smallest amount of cheese that you can.

Soft cheese: These cheeses do not want to age. They should be eaten as soon as you can. These cheese have a lot of moisture and will pick up your fridge smells very rapidly. They will also dry out quickly, and a dry Camembert makes for a sad cheese, a sad you, and a waste of good cheese and money. I usually keep my soft cheeses loosely wrapped in parchment paper or wax paper and in a plastic tupper, or bag. Then I store it in the vegetable crisper.

The vegetable crisper? Oh yes my friends, the crisper. It is the most temperature controlled environment in your fridge. If you have one of those new fangled fancy how-do-you-do fridges you can even control the humidity down there. What's more important to you, cheese or veggies? Wrong answer! The answer is cheese. Before you designate one of your crispers as your new cheese home take it out, wash it with a mild soap, dry it and put it back in. Now we can continue.

Cheddars: I gave these guys their own category for a reason. Although it is not recommended, and I wouldn't do this with a Neighborly Farms Cheddar you can in fact freeze cheddar. Now I told you that I wouldn't do it, but this summer at the ACS cheese sale I bought a ton of cheese. A lot of cheddar was purchased. A LOT of cheddar bordering on too much. There was mac n' cheese for many weeks. I didn't want the cheese to go bad, so I portioned it out and froze it. It was still just as yummy in the grilled cheese, quiches, scrambled eggs and mac n' cheese. When not freezing, wrap it in parchment, or wax paper and into the crisper it goes

Fresh Goat: Ah yes, goat cheese. This cheese wants to do it's own thing. One day the Bucheron is dry, the next day it's wet. If your cheese is too moist, cover the exposed parts of the cheese in parchment or wax paper and put it in the cold box. If the cheese is too dry, wrap it in the parchment or wax paper, then lightly wrap it in saran and put it in the cold box. How do you know if the cheese is too dry or moist? Do you think it's too moist? then it is. Do you think it's too dry? Right again. There are guidelines, but you should do what you like. Taste it both ways and make up your own mind.

Cheese is alive. Seriously. It's not just the title of my blog. when you wrap a piece of cheese tightly in plastic wrap you are suffocating the cheese. I know, you went to your local shop the other day and all of their cheeses were in plastic. I know. We are bad and hypocrites and awful. I'm going to tell you what my mother told me when she caught me smoking when I was a teenager "Do as I say, not as I do". Ok, here's the truth about cheese shops and plastic wrap. Our turnover of cheese is much higher than yours. Every night we re-wrap the cheese. If we kept cheese in wax paper how could we sell it to you? You want to see, taste and buy the cheese. We want to give you a beautiful display case that encourages you to see, taste and ultimately buy the cheese, thus the plastic wrap necessity. That being said, there isn't a single person I work with who takes cheese home and wraps it in plastic.

Blues: You should keep blue cheese in cling film. I know, I know. Listen, blues need moisture. Even crumbly blues. Blues are usually shipped in foil to keep all that moisture in. They do not want to dry out. Now, if you like a dry blue, good for you. Enjoy. Don't keep it in film. For the rest of us, film it up.

Packaged cheese: These are feta, ricotta, cream cheese, quark, burrata and mozzarella. Leave these cheeses in the package they came in. Burrata and mozzarella want to retain moisture, otherwise they will dry out and turn into that stuff that comes in the plastic bags hanging in most supermarkets next to the Kraft singles. If the original package gets destroyed find something similar and store it in that. Burrata often comes in a plastic bag, so reserve the liquid and store your leftover cheese in a round tupper. The real question I have for you is what are you doing with leftover Burrata? Seriously?

Now, most other cheeses like Gouda, Manchego and Podda you can wrap them in parchment or wax paper, and put them in the crisper. If you have a lot of cheese, I would suggest that you also put them in little Ziploc baggies to help keep those cheesy smells separate.

If you live near an awesome cheese shop they'll be able to sell you some cheese paper either from their own stock, or as a retail product. This is really the best thing for your cheese. Since I know that not all of you have the time, money, or cheese wherewith all to acquire cheese paper, I have given you a few other suggestions.

Please remember that:

1. Cheese is alive and you spent money on it, so don't hurt it
2. The egg section, or butter nook is NOT a good place for cheese
3. Be nice to the cheese and it will be tasty.
4. Only buy the amount of cheese you need. A good cheese monger wants you to come to get more cheese, not throw cheese away. If you are being pressured to buy more than you think you need you might want to get out of that shop. They don't care about the cheese as much as they should.

IMHO

1 comments:

Ursula said...

This post is incredibly useful, chock-full of helpful info. Might I suggest you make a "favorite posts" section on your sidebar and link to this one? I think your visitors would love the handy access in future months!

 

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