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Ask the Monger: How Can I Gift Cheese?

Qgreen_40px I want to send someone the gift of cheese. How can I safely select, package, and ship the goods?

Agreen The best way to pack your gift depends on the style of cheese as well as the temperature it will endure during travel. Many cheeses are tolerant of moderate temperature shifts, while others risk losing quality—and even raise food-safety concerns—should they warm up and linger above 40°F. 

Cheeses that age for months to years at about 55 degrees, such as Gruyère and parmesan, are the sturdiest of their kind. At room temperature, they’re likely to survive with no more damage than a bit of surface oiliness. To package one of these durable wedges or wheels, chill it in the fridge and box it right before shipping. Place a few ice packs in Ziploc bags, or wrap them in freezer paper to protect against condensation. Pad the inside of the box, and choose a quick shipping method—if the weather is cool, three to four days is usually fine.  

Soft cheeses are trickier as they need to stay cold, requiring a balance between packaging and shipping time; overnight services are expensive, but so are insulated containers. In addition, cold air settles, so it’s most efficient to place ice packs on top of the products—but that can weigh them down. To protect softer cheeses, pad them with packaging materials such as bubble wrap, foam, or paper for cushioning, then fit a smaller cardboard enclosure around them. Place this smaller package inside of your shipping box or insulated container, then place ice packs on top and around the sides, with padding in between. 

With any type of cheese, be sure to write “refrigerate on arrival” on the outside of the box, and be sure to verify that your recipient will be available to receive the package. Ship all packages at the beginning of the week so they don’t risk sitting at a distribution center over the weekend (take holidays into account, too). And finally, remember that you can opt for tracking information on your bundle of joy as it travels to its destination.

Photo of La Fromagerie by Cheese Sex Death

Gianaclis Caldwell

Gianaclis Caldwell is the author of Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, among other books. She manages the goat herd and cheesemaking operations at Pholia Farm Creamery in Oregon.

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