Storing your cheese
The first thing to remember is that cheese keeps best as a whole cheese. So unless you are buying a whole cheese it’s best to eat it as soon as you can. However, this may not always be practical and you may need to store it. Larger pieces of cheese keep better than small pieces. There are few hard and fast rules, merely lots of hints and to make life more complicated, conditions will change with the seasons as will the cheese.
Where to store
If you are storing cheese in a refrigerator, it is best to store it in the salad drawer, which although may be running at a slightly higher temperature, it is a confined space that will retain humidity levels. However, do bear in mind that if using the salad compartment to store your cheese, do not also store salad items in the same compartment, as it can transfer harmful bacteria to the cheese.
Some cheeses are best kept cool, others need a warmer environment; it depends on the type of cheese and its stage of maturity. Most hard cheeses that arrive with you will be fine at 8 degrees centigrade to 15 degrees centigrade, at warmer temperatures they will continue to mature; a cool, humid cellar would be perfect, or any unheated part of the house that has a constant temperature between 8 &15 degrees centigrade. Soft and blue cheeses need to be stored at low temperatures, preferably in a refrigerator between 5 & 8 degrees centigrade.
Nearly all cheeses like a moist atmosphere, 80% relative humidity is ideal. A humid cellar is often ideal, as is the dairy or salad drawer in your fridge, but if this is not possible cover the cheese with a clean, damp cloth or keep the cheese in a container which prevents moisture escaping, for example a cheese bell or cardboard box. Too dry an atmosphere will mean the cheese will crack; too moist an atmosphere and mould growth is encouraged. Moulds are part of the natural development of cheese and often enhance their flavour but scrape them off if they look unattractive.
The waxed paper in which we supply our cheese does a good job at keeping the cheese in the right condition. It allows the cheese to breathe but not to dry out too quickly. Cling film, if used for any length of time, tends to allow too much moisture to build up, encouraging moulds to grow on the surface of the cheese. If you do use cling film, cover only the cut surface, allowing the rind to breathe and use a new piece every time you open it. Kitchen foil is good for wrapping moist blue cheeses.
Shelf life and storage
With individual cheeses you can expect a natural shelf life as indicated by the Use By / Best Before Date on the packaging. With hard cut cheeses (including robust blues like Stilton), if carefully wrapped and stored as suggested cheese will keep for a minimum of a week or more from the date of purchase (all cut cheeses are cut to order and will have approximately 12 days shelf life on them).
At Christmas our last delivery will be a few days earlier than Christmas Day and keeping the cheese in the refrigerator as recommended will slow down maturation and help prevent premature spoilage.
Serving your cheese
To enjoy your cheese at its best, allow it to come to room temperature between 18 & 23 degrees centigrade for an hour or so before serving. Cut the cheese according to its shape, for example if it is a wedge follow the lines of the cheese. Round cheeses such as Camembert should be cut as you would cut a cake, so that each piece has an equal proportion of rind. Remember that small portions of cheese tend to dry out quickly, so cut as small a surface as possible and try to finish up little pieces quickly to enjoy your cheese at its best.
We would recommend that cheese should be served before the dessert as the flow of flavours through the meal is best preserved and the wine from the main course can usually be enjoyed with the cheeses. On the other hand, it is always nice to sit and relax at the end of a meal and pick at a cheese board intermittently, and so the choice is yours! Accompany with quality bread or crackers and a selection of pickles and chutneys.