One of the most frequently questions we are asked is "how do I store my cheeses at home?", particularly at festive times of the year when cheese is bought in advance. So, we're here to share our top tips for how to store cheese at home and help you to keep it in top condition for when you, and your loved ones, are ready to tuck in.
What's covered in this post - here's some quick links you can jump straight into:
- Get to know your cheese - what's an affineur?
- How to wrap your cheese
- What to consider when you re-wrap your cheese
- Can you freeze cheese?
- What extra to watch out for when storing cheese
1. Get to know your cheese - what's an affineur?
There's a whole science around ripening cheese, and when you hear about an "affineur", this person is someone who is an expert in the ripening or ageing of cheese. We'll share more about this in future posts, but for now, we want you to know that an affineur has a huge role to play in the quality and characteristics of the cheese you enjoy, but what happens at the retailer, and what you do at home can make all the difference too.
A 'truckle' of cheese
A truckle, or wheel, of cheese is a living thing; maturing and developing over time just like a fine bottle of wine. It needs to be stored well and looked after to develop the best flavours and texture.
There's an important part of the cheesemaking process dedicated to ripening. As cheesemakers, we store and mature the cheese in specific ripening rooms, grading them regularly, and selecting them for the specific requirements of the customer before it leaves us.
What to consider when getting to know your cheese
Is it a whole cheese (as it was made) like a whole Brie or Camembert, or our whole Bluemin White, or is it a pre-cut cheese?
With some cheeses, if your cheese has a natural rind, like our blue cheeses or a Brie or Camembert, then it really matters if it is a cut piece or a whole. In the case of a whole cheese with a rind, once the cheese is cut, it will have a much shorter life, the ripening process loses it's balance and you'll see things like overgrowth.
However, if you buy a cheese in a full wheel (as it was made), then the life of the cheese can be very different. It can keep on maturing. Best to look to the producer for when this was made to consider the ripening profile.
Inspect your cheese
With cut cheese and with whole cheeses, you can learn a lot from inspecting your cheese. Don't be afraid to touch, smell and look at your cheese for dryness or any unwanted moisture. You'll notice if there's something unusual about your cheese.
Look for any cracks in your harder cheeses which can come from being too dry, and if you smell any odour of ammonia, it can be a sign that it is time to throw your cheese away and often the result of too much moisture.
2. How to wrap your cheeses - no plastic wrap!
Lots of cheese, especially cut pieces, arrive in plastic packaging. But when it comes to storing your own cheese at home, plastic is the last thing you want to use! Cheese needs air to breathe and plastic quite literally suffocates it, causing it to spoil quicker, it can make the cheese "sweat".
When you buy pre-cut cheese it will usually be wrapped in plastic, which isn't ideal for storing as it doesn't allow the cheese to breathe. As the cheese matures, or if there is a rise in temperature, moisture will be drawn out of the cheese and is trapped, causing the cheese to sweat.
Foil, baking paper or wax paper allows the moisture to wick off the cheese but will also keep the humidity in.
The best way to store cheese is to take it out of the plastic packaging as soon as you get home
Firstly wrap it in greaseproof paper and then wrap tightly in kitchen foil or a beeswax wrap and pop it in the fridge. This will keep the cheese moist – while still allowing it to breathe – and safe from any flavour taint it may pick up from other foods being stored.
Then pop in a sealed container to control the atmosphere. This can ensure that the environment stays moist and, for those cheeses with powerful aromas, you can spare them from the rest of the fridge - and your less adventurous family members!
An even grander solution would be to use a glass cheese dome, where the clever cheese creates its own atmosphere, preserving itself and looking great at the same time.
3. What to consider when you re-wrap your cheese
The theme of 2020 -and also good to remember when it comes to storing cheese - always wash your hands before handling the cheese to avoid any extra bacteria and inevitable mould growth contaminating the cheese.
Same goes for keeping any knives squeaky clean before use, and use a different knife for each cheese.
Use a new sheet of cheese paper such as our reusable Beeswax wrap, each time you cut off some of the cheese. You could pop a label on the wrap to remind you of the type of cheese and the date it was stored, to keep track of freshness.
4. Can you freeze cheese?
Lots of cheese can be happily frozen to live a longer life, but there are definitely some cheeses that should avoid the freezer.
A good rule of thumb is: Semi-hard cheese can be frozen, but creamier cheese won’t fare as well.
Freezing can change the texture of creamier cheese, it can lessen the unctuousness we love so much, so try to keep the freezer reserved for hard cheese you'll use in cooking, rather than those used for a cheeseboard.
If you do choose to freeze, avoid freezing in large blocks, as even some hard cheese will crumble once defrosted. Cut up into small pieces or grate it all up beforehand, so it’s ready for cooking up a storm. Let the cheese fully defrost in the fridge for a day or so before you use it.
Whilst we don't recommend freezing our creamy blue cheeses, we have heard reports from people who have, and they've been very happy with the results.
5. What to watch out for when storing cheese
- If you've bought blue cheese, this is better wrapped in foil or beeswax wraps. You may find the cut surface starts to bloom with a blue mould coat – don't worry, this is completely normal and the whole cheese remains edible. However it's always recommended to consume your cheese within the date on the label.
- For the cheese you are keeping in the fridge, try storing it in a drawer or a sealed container instead of the top shelf, as it’s likely to be slightly warmer and much better at keeping a consistent temperature compared to the more chilly parts of the fridge.
- Finally, back to the affineur piece - learn as much about your cheese as you can. Small artisan producers like us are super proud and passionate about our cheeses - we'll always find the time to share tips, tricks and knowledge about our cheeses to help you enjoy them in peak condition!