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How to store and cut cheese

Whether you have purchased your gourmet cheeses at a specialty store or at a grocery, you should know how to carve and store them properly

Whether you have visited a specialty shop or purchased cheese in the grocer's gourmet section, a little knowledge about storage and proper slicing and cutting will be helpful. The cheeses will last much longer with these few steps.

When you arrive home with your cheese selection, place them in the lowest rack of the refrigerator or in the vegetable compartment. Because cheeses absorb flavors, keep them away from other foods and separate mild varieties from those with strong flavors.

Cheese needs to breathe without drying out. Keep cheese in the original store wrapper and re-use. If that is not possible, use plastic wrap, which is probably the easiest solution, but not always recommended by the experts. Aluminum foil is an alternative; use a toothpick to pierce tiny holes on all sides. Wax paper is also a good recommendation; seal it off with tape. Drop a saltwater-damp cloth over soft cheeses and place them in a small casserole dish.

A rule of thumb for cheese storage: wrap stinky cheeses, hard cheeses, and semi-soft cheeses in foil. Cover crumbly cheeses with a damp cloth; seal Brie and other soft-ripened cheeses in wax paper.

Whichever method you choose, check the cheese on a regular basis and replace the wrappers if necessary. As cheeses continue to age, you must control the temperature and humidity to retard ripening; some cheeses will turn bitter if kept too cold.

Cheese cuts efficiently when cold, but never cut any cheese too far in advance of serving. If you are serving bite-size appetizers, however, some preparation is required. Cheddar, Emmental, Gouda, Fontina, Tilsit, and herbed cheeses are just a few cubing choices. Once you have assembled the items, place them on the serving tray or pedestal and keep them covered in plastic wrap.

Pre-cut wheels in thin wedges or larger chunks; each guest can then cut a portion in random pieces. Always serve Brie and other soft wheels in small wedges. You can remove the rind or let the guest remove it with his or her own utensils.

Do cut up harder cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Sbrinz so your guests will not have to struggle with a knife.

If the cheese tray is going to be sitting on the table for some time, choose larger chunks that will hold up well without drying out. Remove the rinds on the larger pieces so they can be cut on the cheeseboard. Provide knives that are appropriate for the type of cheese. Overlapping sliced cheese in rows will help keep it fresh.

Exceptions remain for keeping an intact rind, which can be the hot spot for richest flavor. Blue-veined cheeses are a good example and your guests should be able to partake of the array of tastes, beginning at the tip and working toward the rind.

Specialty shops offer superior customer service and selection. Their cheese experts can answer all your questions regarding which types of cheeses you should serve. If you choose to start small and save a little money, then don't hesitate to visit the local grocery store. By tasting and experimenting, you will develop your own gourmet cheese preferences.


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