WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO STORE CHEESE?

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I’d like to take you back to a very dark time in my life.  It was a day I hope I’ll never have to repeat again.  As I remember it, it was a fairly warm day.  Time Magazine had named German Chancellor Angela Merkel as its ‘Person of the Year’ and McDonalds had just opened it’s first stand alone coffee kiosk, McCafe.

 

wrapping-cheese

It was December 9th, 2015.  The day I had to sacrifice an entire block of cheese to the research and development lab in my house.  The kitchen.

I love cheese.   I’d say it’s the kind of love that a lot of people would call “unnatural”, but heh,  there’s no such thing as an unnatural love of cheese.  No matter how great your love of cheese it is NOT unnatural. And don’t let anyone tell you any differently.  I used to do commentary in the middle of The Jerry Springer Show so I’m pretty well versed in cheese.  Jerry and his band of chair throwing curiosities came upon a bit of a stumbling block one episode. This one show in particular, was titled, “I Married My Horse”.  It was about a man.  Who married his horse.

After a bit of a stink, some hoopla, and several lawyers the show was banned for airing.

Had that show been titled “I Married My Cheese” I’m sure we’d all have been a lot more understanding.

cheese-storing-methods

But I had to sacrifice an entire block of cheddar cheese because I wanted to see if wrapping it in different materials would have any affect on how long it could be stored before going mouldy.

They actually sell “cheese paper” for wrapping cheese but that shit’s pricey.  So I figured I’d take every method of wrapping cheese I could find on the Internet and give them all a shot.

I cut my block of cheese into 4 equal sections and wrapped each of them a different way.

  1. In plastic wrap.
  2. In tin foil.
  3. In wax paper which was then put inside a plastic bag.
  4. In wax paper alone.

Each of these methods has an advantage and a disadvantage.

  1. Plastic wrap keeps cheese from drying out but also traps in moisture which makes mould growth faster and easier.
  2. Tin Foil is doesn’t wrap as tightly as plastic wrap slowing mould growth.
  3. Wax paper allows the cheese to breathe therefore reducing moult growth, plus allowing gasses that build up and can alter the taste of your cheese, to escape.  Putting the wax paper wrapped cheese in a plastic bag that isn’t entirely sealed will help keep it from drying out.
  4. Wax paper alone allows the most breathing and will therefore reduce the growth of mould.  BUT cheese is more likely to dry out.

Now, as far as I’m can tell any of these methods will work just fine if you only want to store your cheese for a week.  But what if you want it to last a few weeks?  Even a month?  What then?

So on December 1st I packaged all of the cheese up, stuck it in the back of the fridge and forgot about it.

Dec-9

 

 

When you handle cheese you aren’t supposed to touch it with your bare hands because of the bacterial carry over.  You’re supposed to use surgeons gloves.

Since I’m not insane and assume you aren’t either, I just touched the cheese with my fingers like a normal person would when wrapping it up.

On February 8th I unwrapped my science experiment to very surprising results.

 

unwrapping-cheese

 

Here’s how they fared.

  1. Wax Paper alone – Grew absolutely NO mould at all.  But was as hard as a brick.  This cheese was now a weapon.
  2. Wax Paper in plastic – This cheese grew a fair amount of mould and a lot of it pretty deadly looking.
  3. Tin Foil – Cheese wrapped in tin foil grew what seemed to be mostly surface mould and a lot of it.
  4. Plastic Wrap – Grew the least amount of mould (other than the wax paper wrapped cheese) over a 2 month period.

But the most surprising thing about this experiment was the OTHER side of the cheese.  The side that was actually touching the shelf of the fridge.  The bottom of it.

 

Other-side-of-cheese

The underside of all the cheeses had far less mould growth than the top of it.

It would seem this could have to do with three things.  Light/temperature/air.  The underside of the cheese was pressed flat against a dark, cold surface that would keep more air out than the top of the cheese.  The glass shelf of the fridge would be slightly colder than the actual air and conduct more cold.  Since my fridge is a glass front fridge, with a light on inside of it 24 hours a day (LED light) the cheese in wax paper and plastic wrap would be subjected to a certain amount of light all day.

I have no idea which or which combination of things created the almost mouldless underside of the cheeses, all I know is that it happened.

cheese-inside

Breaking open the cheeses all of them looked the same.  Mouldless.

HOWEVER you can’t see mould until it’s gone completely haywire.  So just because you can’t see mould inside hard cheese doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Mould grows inside hard cheeses through little branches from the surface inwards and they tend to extend slightly less than an inch.

So if you had a big block of cheese with mould on it, it’s recommended that you cut off 1″ all around the mould.  If your cheese is only 1″ thick, like mine here, you’re out of luck.

If your cheese only has mould on the cut end though, you’re perfectly safe to just cut off an inch worth and eat it.  Not the mouldy inch, the rest of the cheese.

And let’s face it.  We’ve all taken a hunk of mouldy cheese and cut off all the mould and then eaten the little sliver left inside during a moment of cheese craving weakness.

I know right now there are several of you getting ready to type “It’s fine! You’re just eating penicillin!” so let me cut you off right now.  Penicillin mould is a bright blue/green mould that came off a cantaloupe in the 40’s.  That’s what penicillin is made of.  You can in fact grow your own Penicillin but it’s grown on bread or citrus peels, not Kraft Cheddar Cheese.

Since this isn’t a post about making your own Penicillin I won’t go into it further but suffice it to say, much like puff pastry, there are some things you should probably just buy pre-made.

The results of my cheese experiment?  I’m not really sure. I guess plastic wrap looks like the best option, which is funny because it’s the #1 way most people advise against.

By comparing these 4 methods  I’ll probably just continue to store my cheese the way I always have.  In my stomach.

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92 Comments

  1. I am the K-12 science curriculum specialist for St. Tammany Parish Public Schools in Louisiana. I would like to you your photos on the best way to store cheese in the refrigerator to support one our of NGSS/LSS chemistry standards on food preservation techniques. I am emailing for your permission to use those before and after photographs. You website will be references in the power point as an online resource for teachers to share with their students the methods, and scientific practices, you use to test the common method of preserving cheese.

    Please email me if I have your permission to use the before and after photos of your preserving cheese in the refrigerator test.

    Thanks!

  2. Jeni says:

    I too have done many experiments and found that if I wipe the cheese block off with colloidal silver, wrap it in archment paper and then in a plastic bag it keeps for a very long time. So unless American cheese is different to South African cheese it should work for you too. Love what you do

  3. Suzanne Goodwin says:

    I’ve had consistent cheese storage success wrapping cheeses such as cheddar in parchment paper followed by a layer of stretch wrap.

    Make sure both the parchment paper and the stretch wrap, especially, is wrapped very, very, tightly around the chunk of cheese. Slightly less effective but definitely less wasteful is to use a Ziploc or other reusable plastic bags instead of the stretch wrap. I just rubber band them on to hold them tight.

    Works great for breaking down big (a la Costco) sized bricks of the stuff.

  4. Ruth says:

    When I buy cheese it is usually on sale and I buy it in bulk. I cut each block into sections (3 or 4) wrap them air -tight in freezer friendly plastic and put them in the freezer. I take sections out as I need them. They are perfectly usable and good with no mold…lol… and you can manipulate them just as though they were fresh.

  5. Wendy W says:

    So this may be blasphemy to some, but I’ve been known to freeze cheese. If I have a big block of mozza or cheddar, I will grate it before hand and throw it in the freezer. It works great for casseroles, or anything that you need grated cheese for. Honestly, I even buy the pre-shredded cheese and throw it in there. If you freeze it in a block, instead of grated, it will crumble when thawed. Not great for slicing, but still tastes good to eat. If you don’t want to use it frozen, like for tacos, I just thaw it for a bit before using.

  6. Rory Z. says:

    I love you Karen. you are definitely “blessed to be a blessing” Reading your posts always makes my day;-D
    re: cheese~~i just wrap mine in cheesecloth! of all things LOL! and then plastic wrap or a zip lock bag. Works for me for about three weeks and then if it is moldy it is only on the surface and i could get away with shaving it off but i DO cut a good amount off just in case. I was thinking of you today as I decided to try a little front yard gardening this year. Studhubs isn’t too keen on the chickens YET! But Easter is almost here;-D
    Have an awesome and blessed day!
    \o/ r.

  7. leslie says:

    Make cornbread with cheese for your leftover cheddar or feta (my fave), etc…

  8. Jack Ledger says:

    When should you go on a cheese diet? If you need to cheddar a few pounds!

    I am sorry, I can’t help it. I seem to be quietly slipping back into my childhood.

  9. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Great post Karen…I love experiments to try and solve everyday problems like this…my son and I are also cheese lovers and hate for any of it to go to waist…Our latest obsession is Golda…

    • Nancy Blue Moon says:

      Also thanks for showing your gorgeous turquoise ring….I have been craving one lately as I lost the last one I had years ago…Guess I’ll have to look for a bargain on eBay or Etsy…

  10. Kate says:

    Karen,
    In your next round, try Press n’ Seal. I used some to wrap a hunk of hard cheese, and then (unfortunately!) it got shoved all the way to the back of the fridge. That was around Christmas, and I just found it again last week. Surprisingly, no mold top or bottom, and it wasn’t hard as a rock! It was definitely harder than it had been, but not weaponized like yours was. ;)

    I wonder if it’s the close seal on it that does it- I had really pressed it all over to make a close seal. It still breathes a bit, though, I think, more than regular plastic wrap. Anyway, something to consider for your future cheese-mold adventures!

  11. Grammy says:

    Thank you for doing the experiment for us. I, too, want you to do the wax thing next time. That would be fun.

    Some of your post is disturbing, though. I have always trimmed the mold off the surface of cheese and I just barely take off enough to get rid of the visible mold. The idea of trimming an inch from all the moldy sides makes me cringe. I also just pinch the mold off bread. It’s what my mother did, and what I’ve always done. To my knowledge, no one has ever died from my practice of cheapness (I don’t bother with dressing it up by calling myself “thrifty”), but I suppose I could check that out more thoroughly and report back. All I know is my husband and kids (my kids are older than you) are all still alive despite having eaten food from my kitchen all their lives. I’ll try to do better in the future, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll stop completely.

    • Kim from Milwaukee says:

      I’m with you, Grammy. I can’t bear to waste a half inch of cheese let alone a whole INCH! I believe it IS illegal in Wisconsin to do such a thing.

  12. Marta says:

    Maybe a more practical alternative to the dipped-in-wax thing might be the beeswax storage wraps (as seen in this tutorial http://www.mommypotamus.com/diy-reusable-food-wrap/).
    Lastly, if you call the growth “flowers” like Hickory Farm does, that solves your mould problem altogether.
    Cheers

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Flowers. I make beeswax wraps and even have a post about how easy and fun they are to make. But they don’t work well for storing cheese any longer than a week or two. The cheese gets hard. No mould, but hard. I’ve had so many interesting suggestions in this post that I’m going to give a few more a shot in the next month. ~ karen!

  13. Tara says:

    And I forgot to mention the best part—the cheese stays moist and does not dry out!

  14. Tara says:

    Karen

    Take a piece of cheesecloth and douse it with white vinegar so it is very moist. Wrap your cheese in it. Then wrap it in plastic wrap or a ziplock. Not only does the cheese last but it does not take on the vinegar taste! Works like a charm and since large chunks of cheese can be a small investment, a great way to save money. Enjoy!

  15. Sonja Donnelly says:

    I used a paper towel to wrap the cheese then into a ziplock baggie. It seems to work pretty well.

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