If you have ever bought real cheese, you know how temperamental it can be. You have keep it in a chilled environment with a steady temperature to make it last.
Whether you shop for cheese at a large grocery store or a small, locally owned shop, there are a few things you should always keep in mind. Knowing how to buy high-quality food, and how to store it, insures you will get your money's worth.
When good cheese has gone bad, there are always warning signs. Blue, green, and even fuzzy mold on a rind are usually perfectly fine, but shades of yellow or pink indicate spoilage.
Stay away from any that are bulging out of its rind or has a rind that is brittle and cracked. If it smells strongly of ammonia, it is not a piece you want to bring home and eat.
Ideally, food is never suffocated for long periods of time under plastic wrap. Fairly quickly, the food will take on the flavor of plastic, and without any exposure to air, soft varieties become soggy and hard varieties will dry out.
The best cheese mongers keep their wheels whole and cut fresh pieces to order. The best part of buying food is the willingness of retailers to offer samples.
Do not be shy about asking to taste a piece you are considering for purchase. This helps the retailer understand your palate so he/she can offer more helpful recommendations.
Just be careful as to not abuse the privilege while in the shop. Only buy a little bit and a time, and buy often.
The home refrigerator is not a very friendly environment for cheese. The less time it spends in there, the better it will be.
Buy what you can consume within a few days. If you are putting together a platter for a party, a general guideline is 1-2 ounces of each cheese per person.
Refrigerators are too cold and dry to store cheese for long periods of time, but unless you have your own cave with a temperature between 45-60 degrees and humidity of at least 80 percent, using the refrigerator is unavoidable. Store it in refrigerator drawer compartments since they are the warmest and moistest part of the refrigerator.
Wrap the rind in wax paper or set on a plate and loosely cover with plastic wrap. If you are a person who is frequently tempted to bring cheese along for the ride on trips, picnics, and hikes, you do not have to worry.
Certain types fare especially well outside of refrigeration. Hard varieties are the best type for traveling; while with soft types you have to worry about the texture, the smell, and how it is going to hold up.
There are five particular varieties that hold up especially well for road trips, picnics, and the like. Aged Gouda is a great example of a perfect traveling food.
Aged Gouda is hard so it does not melt. It is aged so it can last through the travel and the flavor is so rich you can just eat a little at a time and it will last you.
A type like Parmigiano Reggiano that is aged for several years is another type that you can just keep picking at for a whole trip. Hard cheese is durable and does not spoil, they are really built to last.
Aged sheeps' milk cheese from has an intense flavor that becomes more pronounced when the rind is out of refrigeration, but does not become stinky. Cheddar has a dense and creamy texture but does not ooze, although some cheddar will become soft and oily if left out of refrigeration too long.
This is not the case with Montgomery's Cheddar, which is made in England and aged at least a year. A sturdy natural rind wrapped in linen for extra protection adds to this variety's ability to travel well.
If you try traveling with too soft of a variety you might go to eat it and find a melted or liquid mess. But if you are someone who prefers cheese with a little softness, Appenzeller is a semi-hard Swiss that has a texture with a little give, and the rich flavor of an aged variety.