Keeping and Storing Cheese

It is tempting to discuss the maximum time that a cheese will keep but, as most people will buy cheese by the piece, there seems little point in doing this; once a cheese has been cut it loses the protection of it's rind and starts to deteriorate. If you buy a whole cheese and store it correctly it is quite possible that it will keep for more than a year if not cut.

Storing whole, uncut cheeses, however, is an involved business; besides needing the right conditions - a cool, moist, well ventilated room, free of draughts - cheeses need a certain amount of attention. Remember too, that cheese, like wine, is a living substance that will continue to develop the longer it is stored, and you may end up with a cheese whose flavour is quite different from the one you originally envisaged.

The amount of time any cheese will keep is dependent on the moisture content. Fresh cheeses with high moisture content need to be eaten within a short time after purchase, whilst extra-hard grating cheese will keep almost indefinitely. Correctly stored, firm-textured cheese like Cheddar, when cut, will keep for several weeks, as will a semi-soft cheese like St Paulin. Bloomy-rind cheeses such as Brie and Camembert have a limited life when cut and should be eaten as soon as possible.

Probably the best course for the average cheese buyer is to buy in small quantities - that is, buy what you are capable of eating within 1 - 2 weeks. A major exception is the hard-grating cheeses such as Parmesan. A cut piece of Parmesan cheese, provided it is well wrapped and store, will keep for a considerable length of time.

Cut cheese should be kept in a refridgerator wrapped in aluminium foil, greased-proof paper or bags. If you are storing several types of cheese, they should, of course, be wrapped individually.

Before serving, the cheese should be removed from the refridgerator for at least 2 hours so that it is given sufficient time to reach room temperature before consumption, otherwise you will not get the full benefit of it's true flavour. Cheese for immediate consumption can be kept under a cheese dome; it is a useful trick to place under the edge of the dome a small object such as a piece of sugar to allow the vapour given off by the cheese to escape.

Cheese can be frozen, but this is not really recommended; texture a flavour are likely to be affected - a for the worse. should a mould spot develop on a cheese, simply cut it off; the rest of the cheese will not adversely affected, unless the mould is widespread.