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You walk into your kitchen and notice that piece of cheese on the far end of your counter that you purchased weeks ago. Being entirely weary, you go over to this hunk of cheese and pick it up to examine it. You turn it over, analyzing every corner and then you take the great leap of faith to sniff it, and as you do, you’re nostrils take in this distinct and pronounced smell. Is the cheese still good and this smell is due to aging or is this just a smell of plain ol’ spoiled cheese?
A rule of thumb when purchasing cheese is to, essentially, not bite off more than you can chew, literally. When making a purchase, buy enough for a day or a week’s worth of consumption that will put you in a comfortable position. Worried about purchasing cheese from a store in fear that it might be spoiled or not entirely as fresh as possible? Not to worry. Buying cheese from a specialty foods store, such as Shisler’s Cheese House, will ensure the best cheese buying experience as their storage facilities are better conditions that what can be replicated in your own home. Where a cheese is kept weighs heavily on its quality.
Here are a few “best practices” for cheese storage and shelf life:
When smelling a cheese and it turns out carry a pungent aroma with it, that does not mean this will always be a case of it being spoiled (i.e., Limburger). Smell the cheese you want to purchase and decide if the aroma is bearable and simply aged or if it is not your “cup of tea”, or in this case not your “slice of cheese”.
Taste the cheese. If, by now, you haven’t decided whether the smell is desirable or off-putting, try a piece and see if the taste if what you’re looking for.
Fresh, soft cheeses as you would find in a grocery store, have a shorter shelf life than aged, harder textured cheeses. Fresh, younger types of cheese such as Ricotta, Mozzarella and Goat cheese generally have a shelf life lasting up to a week or week and a half, from the date of purchase. If you taste the cheese and its taste has hints of spoiled milk, well, I don’t think much more must be said.
Brie and Camembert tend to have a longer shelf life than fresh, young cheese as well, and other similar cheeses with a bloomy rind, yet still have an ample content of moisture to where it could still spoil. Overall, these types of cheese can last for weeks to perhaps a month and half, depending on the date of purchase. If the cheese rind on these types of cheeses appears to have a pink mold with a slimier coating, best to toss it. If an ammonia-type smell develops, this is not bad thing, as this is a byproduct of the aging process.
Cheese such as Taleggio, Limburger and Epoisses are best eaten straight after purchase. These cheeses carry an especially pungent aroma, so you could imagine the work they could do stored in the far ends of your refrigerator. The rinds on these cheese will dry out and crack over time which becomes a paradise for bacteria to live and thrive, a potential death sentence if consumed under these conditions. Best to eat these cheese as soon as they are purchased, but try not to let these cheese spend more than a week in your fridge if even that long before consumption.
Lightly aged goat cheeses such as Crottin, Chevrot and Chabichou du Poitou and other French-origin goat cheeses are virtually indestructible. Enough said…
Aged cheeses such as Cheddar, Gouda, Gruyere, Parmigiano Reggiano and Fontina have gone through a lengthy aging process that ensures their durability over the test of time. With such minimal moisture within these cheeses, there is nothing too much to be worried about with these cheeses. In many cases, the more aged these cheeses are, the better they taste.
As Blue Cheeses age, they become more intolerable to those not accustomed to this type of cheese. The moment you try a blue cheese, you will know whether or not the taste has become to overwhelming for your liking. While it will never put your health at stake, the age of a blue cheese may take a toll on your taste buds. The higher the moisture content in a blue cheese, the quicker it develops a more pungent taste. Wrapping these cheeses in foil will maintain their moisture content.