How to Store Cheese: Advice from Jill, Del Ray’s “Cheese Lady”
We have our very own cheesemonger in Del Ray – Jill Erber, who owns Cheesetique and goes by the moniker, the “cheese lady” around town. Jill loves to talk to her customers about all things cheese-related, including a topic fitting for DIY Del Ray – how to store cheese at home. She invited me over to her beautiful home, a stone’s throw from my house, for my lesson.
We sipped wine while Jill demonstrated the best ways to wrap and store two main kinds of cheese: a hard cheese, and a semi-hard or soft cheese.
Most people, me included, just stick the cheese in a plastic bag or wrap it in plastic and shove it in the frig. That’s not good. What’s more, it’s rather insulting to the cheese, a living organism that needs a certain ecosystem to thrive. Cheese needs to breathe.
When you buy cheese at Cheesetique, they wrap it in a special paper that has a plastic lining, which provides an ideal environment for the trip from the store to your home, and for storage for a short while before you serve it.
To keep the cheese as healthy as possible between servings, Jill recommends a few easy storage methods using items you already have at home – tupperware, paper, and plastic wrap.
Now, in a perfect world, you buy just enough cheese to eat right then and there. But, if you have extra and need to store it, keep in mind that your refrigerator is much colder and dryer than the one at Cheesetique, which maintains the ideal temperature of 41 degrees F. So, to work with a less-than-ideal environment for cheese in the typical home, you’d be wise to take these few extra steps.
Storing a semi-hard or soft cheese
If you’re storing a blue cheese, or a soft-ripened cheese like Camembert, or a “stinky cheese,” the trick, Jill says, is to not wrap it at all. She demonstrated this method with a d’Affinois, a double-cream cow’s milk cheese that has an edible white rind on the outside and a soft oozing center. It’s one of Cheesetique’s top sellers.
Jill recommends that you put the cheese into a tupperware container and pop it into the frig.
This is the method to use for a semi-hard cheese too like this British blue Stilton.
This way you create an ecosystem that is a bit humid, less drafty, and a little less cold than the average temperature in your frig. Also, you prevent the cheese from absorbing other odors and flavors in the refrigerator, and vice versa.
Storing a firm cheese
There are two steps involved in storing a firm cheese, but it’s worth it, says Jill, to do this right. She demonstrated this method with a Dutch Beemster X-O cheese, a hard cheese made from cow’s milk that is known for its distinctive tastes of butterscotch, whisky, and pecans.
First, you wrap the cheese in paper, like butcher, parchment, wax, or even printer paper. The paper gives the cheese an air cushion so it’s not suffocated when you do the next step.
Next, you wrap the cheese in plastic wrap, which keeps the cheese from drying out in your refrigerator’s cold, dry atmosphere.
Put it in the crisper, which is slightly warmer spot in your frig, but try to use the cheese within a week. This is true for the chunk of parmesan that many people think they can keep around for much longer (months even) and grate for pasta. Harder cheese dries out more quickly than soft cheese, believe it or not.
If you have any questions about cheese (how they’re made and ages, cheese pairings, etc.), Jill welcomes questions in person at the shop or on her Ask the Cheese Lady feature on the Cheesetique blog.