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Crack the Case

Illustrated by Tom Bingham

Follow these five steps to ensure your treating, eating, and storing your cheese right. 

1. Fear the Freezer.

Just don’t do it!  Freezing cheese destroys texture and thus affects the flavor, mouthfeel, and, ultimately, the pleasure of eating. This is true for both soft and hard varieties.

2. Give the cheese a home.

Store small, soft cheeses in a mini cardboard or wooden box with a lid; this will help the cheese avoid cold drafts while retaining moisture. If a box isn’t available, use a plastic container with a lid.

3. Eat it!

Buy only as much cheese as you’ll eat in about a week. Every time a cut piece is exposed to air there will be a certain amount of contamination—this might lead to safe mold growth, but it can also lead to spoilage and the proliferation of harmful bacteria. The smaller the wedge, the more quickly you’ll want to consume it, as exposure to oxygen will rapidly undermine quality. Bottom line: home storage of cheese should be temporary—just long enough for you to enjoy the cheese at its best.

4. Know when to let go.

Since some cheeses smell funky and look moldy at their peak, knowing when a cheese has gone bad sometimes takes serious detective work. Look for visual cues such as a slimy surface; dark, dry, and cracked areas; or yellow splotches on blue cheese. If it’s unopened, bloated packaging can also be an indicator. An ammonia smell suggests the cheese may have been wrapped up too long and was unable to breathe. Still unsure? Nibble to reach a final verdict; if it’s abnormally sour or just plain off tasting, it’s past its prime.

5. Free the cheese.

Cheese is a living thing. It needs to breathe, so it should be treated the same way as produce or meat. Wrap your cheese in paper for optimal storage—ask your cheese shop for a few extra sheets, or use parchment paper.

Kate Arding

Kate Arding is an independent dairy consultant specializing in small-scale cheese production and an original co-founder of culture: the word on cheese. A native of Britain, Kate has worked in the farmhouse cheese industry for 18 years, first as wholesale manager for Neal's Yard Dairy in London and later helping establish Cowgirl Creamery and Tomales Bay Foods in California. Since 2003 Kate has worked extensively both in the United States and overseas as an independent consultant, specializing in affinage, sales and marketing, and helping small-scale cheesemakers adapt to changing market demands.

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.

Molly McDonough

Former Senior Editor Molly McDonough worked for cheesemakers in Switzerland and the US before earning a Master's degree in Agriculture and Food Science at the Ecole Supérieure d'Agriculture in Angers, France. After spending a year in Romania working on rural development projects with Heifer International, she returned home to Boston and joined the culture team in 2015.

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