It's not uncommon: you buy cheese wrapped in plastic at the supermarket, so naturally, that's how you store it. But unfortunately, storing cheese in plastic wrap or plastic bags, while good for containing the odor and keeping it from contaminating the contents of your fridge, is a big no-no as far as the actual flavor of the cheese is concerned.
If you want to get the most out of your cheese -- and avoid using too much plastic in general -- discover our top three tips for cheese storage.
1. Keep it Wrapped -- Just Not in Plastic
There are three principal reasons not to wrap cheese in plastic, as Harold McGee explains in his book and the folks at Serious Eats so perfectly synthesize: tightly wrapped cheese is more prone to bacteria development, including bacteria not native to the cheese, which can cause off flavors; tight wrapping also keeps the natural odors of cheese and its natural bacteria from dissipating into the air, infusing their flavors back into the cheese and causing ammonia aromas. In addition, the plastic can contain chemicals like low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC), which are in turn absorbed by the cheese due to its high fat content.
None of these things are good news when it comes to storing your cheese, particularly if you've got your hands on a delicious wedge of artisanal cheddar or some local goat cheese!
However, this isn't to say that you shouldn't be wrapping your cheese at all. On the contrary, unwrapped cheese can dry out as well as absorb odors from other foods or give off odors that are in turn absorbed by other foods in the fridge. Cheese shops often use waxed paper or butcher's paper for wrapping cheese; you can use specialized cheese paper as well, and using a special technique, wrap it just tightly enough to keep it safe and delicious.
2. Harness the Aromas
If plastic has long been a favorite for storing cheese, it's undoubtedly thanks to its talent for keeping cheese's odors at bay. But plastic is not the only way to achieve this.
For generations, the French, perhaps the world's most famed lovers of stinky cheeses, have been using cheese boxes to store their cheese. The added benefit of these boxes is that once the cover is removed, the box becomes a makeshift cheese plate, allowing you avoid transferring runny cheeses from one dish to another.
Several different versions of this product exist, including handy plastic versions that allow you to slide the cheese plate out, even antique porcelain versions that come in fun shapes! Whichever you choose, make sure that the plate itself is textured so that air can pass through; otherwise the surface that is constantly in contact with the plate may develop mold more quickly due to increased moisture. If you fall in love with a version that doesn't have this, try turning your cheeses every few days instead.
3. Careful with the Temperature!
Cheese is most often stored in the fridge, but be careful of storing high-quality cheeses in a place that's too cold! In France, many people store their cheese in the garage or another cool-but-not-cold place; the only issue with this is that cheese continues to ripen at room temperature, so if you want to keep it longer, it's better off in the fridge.
That being said, you can age cheese at home if you've bought a piece that doesn't seem to be quite at its peak yet.
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