Cheese: Smart Storage
Recently I visited France and marveled at the vast array of cheeses available in both the markets and supermarkets. The French really know their cheese — a perfect ripeness for tonight’s dinner and one that will keep for awhile.
Here we are experiencing a surge in artisanal cheesemaking. No longer are cheddar and Swiss our only options. While we don’t have quite the same reverence for cheese as the French, our cheese counters are chock full of choices.
Cheese can be expensive. Not only are finer cheeses weather dependent, they’re also labor intensive. So you don’t want to waste any of it. Fresh cheeses, like ricotta, mascarpone, or soft goat, will spoil quickly, so kept them in the fridge only for a week. Aged firm cheeses, such as good cheddar cheeses and Parmesan, will last for up to a month if well-wrapped.
Cheese absorbs flavors, and plastic-wrapped cheese tastes, well, like plastic. I unwrap these, rewrap them in waxed paper and then foil. Feta cheese goes off so fast once unwrapped. I find keeping it in a salt-water brine prevents the spoilage for up to 2 weeks. It is how it is made and kept in Greece.
Runny cheeses like Brie and Camembert will last only a few day once ripe. If they smell of ammonia, they’re finished. A bit of mold on harder cheeses can be scraped off without harm.
One truism is to always take cheese out of the fridge one to two hours before serving. The flavor of cheese blooms at room temperature. And don’t throw away those Parmesan rinds either. As any Italian grandmother will tell you, put them in soup! The rinds melt and flavor a batch of minestrone just right.
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