Ballard Cheese Tips
Truly, cheese is a simple food. Other than salt and a little culture and
enzymes, it’s made entirely of milk. Yet cheese is also an amazingly
versatile food; always ready as a quick snack or as the crowning touch
to a gourmet meal.
We’ve compiled some
storage and handling tips, along with some frequently asked questions about cheese so you can enjoy it to the fullest.
Today, buying cheese is not as simple as it was a decade or two ago
when supermarkets carried only a few varieties and brands. Now, it’s
more of an adventure as you’re faced with names and terms you
might be unfamiliar with. Don’t hesitate to ask questions of your
grocer or cheese monger (yes, that’s a person who sells cheese!) Often
they will let you taste a sample and help you determine the best
cheese for your needs.
Also consider the appearance of cheese before purchasing. The
package should be wrapped and sealed tightly, and the cheese should
appear fresh and appealing, not dry or discolored. If you’re unfamiliar
with the proper texture of a cheese (for instance, should it look soft
and runny?), and you are unsure of its quality, ask your retailer.
To keep cheese fresh once you get it home, your goal is to create its
natural environment as closely as possible—one that is cool yet
allows for some air circulation. For most cheese, the best wrap is
waxed paper or parchment, which lets the cheese breathe but still
retain moisture. You can also place the wrapped cheese in a loose-
fitting plastic food bag to help maintain the humidity and maintain
the air circulation. If the cheese was vacuum-packed, it’s best to
repack in waxed paper or parchment to ensure continued freshness.
However, if your cheese is a hard grating type such as Parmesan or
Asiago (which are already dry to begin with), you want to minimize any
additional moisture loss. Wrapping it in plastic is appropriate, but
change the wrap frequently since such a tight wrap can also trap
Temperature is also an important consideration in cheese storage.
Ideally, it should be placed in the warmest part of your refrigerator,
towards the top or in one of the vegetable bins. If possible, keep the
cheese away from the fridge door, as too many temperature changes
can affect its quality.
To bring out the wonderful, original flavors of the cheese, let it come
to room temperature before serving. Remove it form the refrigerator
30-60 minutes prior to serving. Fresh cheese is the exception and
should be handled with the same cautions as fresh milk.
Try to cut just enough cheese for immediate use. If you return
smaller, unused pieces to the refrigerator, they will dry out more
quickly. If cheese is going to be the only food served, such as with a
cheese and wine tasting, estimate up to six ounces of cheese per
person. If it will be accompanied by other foods, allow two to four
ounces per person. Of course, recipes will give you the exact amount