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Caring for your cheese

Cheese is a living, breathing thing. So treat it with a little care and respect and it will reward you. As a natural product it is best kept by devouring it as soon as possible. If that’s desirable but not always practical, here’s some key tips to making it last.

White mould ripeness

Soft white mould cheese is living and breathing, so can react in many different ways depending on its age, size, storage, temperature and if it’s been cut. Best before dates are a good indication of ripeness but should only be used as a guide. If you have a large round, feel the core – it gives a good indication of the softness and ripeness of the cheese. To ripen white mould cheeses faster, keep in the warmest part of the fridge, or to slow down ripening, keep in the coldest part. As soon as a white mould is cut, it accelerates the maturation of the cheese. It is also normal for white mould to begin growing on these cut surfaces as a mould spreads. Much like an avocado, white mould cheeses are firmer when young, and soften and become creamier over time. When serving, bring white mould cheeses to room temperature, this can also eliviate the ammoniated odour that can sometimes


Wrapping leftovers

The two main enemies of cheese are excessive heat and air. Heat makes it deteriorate rapidly. Leaving it open to air will dry it out and leave it prone to the bacteria that causes mould. Wrap the cheese properly, use the original wrapper if that’s possible, otherwise use waxed paper, non-stick baking paper or aluminium foil. Certain cheeses may be difficult to wrap if they have spread from being at room temperature. Use a spatula to transfer the cheese to a plate, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until it’s chilled. When serving, bring white mould cheeses to room temperature, this can also alleviate the ammoniated odour that can sometimes comes from the cheese.

Where to store leftovers

A small plastic lidded container provides a perfect micro-climate for storing your wrapped cheese, allowing air to circulate while retaining moisture and preventing unwanted odours from contaminating the cheese. Beware of putting cheeses together in a plastic storage box as milder cheeses may pick up flavours from stronger ones. Refrigerate any leftover cheeses as soon as possible.

Storage time

It is advisable not to keep cheeses too long once you cut into them. Softer cheeses and cheeses that have already been matured will deteriorate quicker than harder ones and should ideally be consumed within 1-2 days. If you keep them for longer, re-wrap them in fresh paper regularly.

Can you freeze cheese?

Purists would say no, but if you have more cheese left over than you are able to eat immediately it makes sense, though be prepared for a loss of quality. Hard cheeses generally freeze better than softer ones. Grating them first makes them easier to use.

A different knife for every cheese type

Different styles of cheese require different serving utensils. A spoon might be necessary for a soft runny cheese while a sharp, sturdy knife might be necessary for a hard cheese. There is a cheese knife for just about every type of cheese. For hard cheeses, a cheese plane works best. This is a straight-handled rounded V-shaped wide blade with a horizontal opening in the middle that is for shaving the cheese. The sides of the blade can be used for cutting. Wire slicers work well for semi-soft to semi-hard cheeses, especially to make uniform slices, and short stubby knives with almond-shaped blades are best for digging out chunks of an extra-hard cheese from a wheel.

Cutting soft cheeses

For soft cheeses a skeleton cheese knife with holes in the middle of the blade works best. Those holes prevent the cheeses from sticking to the knife. Use a skeleton cheese knife or a regular cheese knife with two prongs at the tip for spearing the cut piece of cheese to put on a plate.
(Information from NZ Specialist Cheesemakers Association).