‘Do not use clingfilm!’ Stop cheese from going mouldy with clever food storage hack
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With cheese now seen as a luxury item a the shopping basket, it’s important you know how to store it in order for it to last as long as possible. While some cheeses owe their incredible flavours to hte magic of intentionally placed microorganisms like mould, your average cheeses are best eaten mould and sweat-free. Express.co.uk spoke to Sarah Taylor, food hygiene expert at High Speed Training about the best way to store cheese to ensure the highest quality and encourage longevity.
Sarah said: “The best cheese is much like a fine wine – it is formed by careful control over the milk produced, the process of making the cheese and the storage methods applied to age it well – cheese is an art form based in precise science.
“Artisan – or farmhouse – cheeses are made in ‘wheels’ which are then stored to mature.
“Once these wheels are cut open, the cheese is no longer able to mature in the same way, and correct storage is essential so that we can appreciate the cheese in all its intended glory.
“Whilst it is best to eat cheese soon after it is cut from the wheel, storage is sometimes necessary, so how should you store cheese to get the best out of it? And are there certain cheeses that should be stored differently?”
She continued: “Each cheese is unique, and so they each have different requirements in order to keep them at their best.
“Hard cheeses such as parmesan have a low moisture content, and as bacteria require food and moisture to survive, cheese with a lower moisture content tend to keep longer.
“Because of this low moisture content, hard cheeses are better wrapped in clingfilm rather than in waxed cheese paper (or baking parchment), as the paper will allow the air through, and the cheese will dry out.
“Soft cheeses have a higher moisture content and need to be able to breathe, if soft cheeses are prevented from breathing, they can build up ammonia gases which can taint the flavour and ruin your carefully selected cheese.
“Therefore, soft cheeses should not be tightly wrapped in clingfilm as they will ‘sweat’.
“Soft cheeses are best wrapped in waxed cheese paper, baking parchment, or reusable waxed cloth, and then put in a tupperware container.
“If you have a particularly tricky cheese, add a piece of dampened kitchen towel to the container and this will help regulate the atmosphere inside the container.
“Keeping cheese in an airtight container will also help prevent the smell escaping,” Sarah added.
For anyone wondering whether there is a perfect place to keep cheese in the fridge, the expert revealed: “Cheese benefits from consistency, for that reason you should keep it at the back of the fridge where the temperature and humidity is the most regulated.
“Try not to keep cheese in the fridge door as the constant opening and closing subjects it to hugely varying temperatures.”
And what about eating cheese that has gone slightly mouldy – cheddar cheese for example?
Sarah said: “Mould inside certain cheeses, such as stilton, is intentional.
“Blue and white vein mould is introduced into cheese in order to develop the flavour, and forms along the cracks and air pockets within the cheese. The blue (and white) moulds are different strains of the penicillin genus.
“The Penicillium roqueforti strain has been specifically chosen for cheese because it adds flavour, whereas Penicillium camemberti is used for surface ripened cheeses such as brie and camembert.
“These penicillin moulds are completely harmless to eat because they do not produce the same mycotoxins that can be produced on other foods.
“However, for some cheeses, mould is not a positive flavour-maker and like any other food, could make you feel unwell.
“Cheese which has a high moisture content, such as soft cheese, has a higher risk of going mouldy quicker due to it providing a happy environment for bacteria to thrive in.
“Bacteria needs food and moisture to survive and whilst most bacteria are harmless, or essential to our healthy digestive systems, some can be unpleasant.”
So how can you combat mould? Sarah explained: “You must try to control the risk of unwanted bacterial growth by limiting the flow of oxygen to the cheese, and by temperature regulation. This is where, especially in businesses and food-based settings, food hygiene training protocols need to be followed.
“Many soft cheeses bought in supermarkets come in tubs with foil seals (e.g. philadelphia and equivalents), or wrapped up in portions in liquid (e.g. mozzarella), and even wrapped up waxed paper and in small wooden collars (e.g. camemberts ready for the oven). These materials have been carefully selected to allow the cheese to be kept in the safest way for each of their own requirements.
“Wooden collars work really well in allowing cheese such as Tunworth to breathe whilst inhibiting the growth of bacteria, you can also buy cheese grottos, which replicate the old farmhouse stores.
“The modern take on the cheese grotto protects cheese and stores it at 75 percent humidity, these can be kept on the counter or in a refrigerator.
“When storing your cheeses it is important you follow the manufacturers guidelines, and consume them before their use-by date.”
For anyone who can’t consume their cheese before the use-by date, Sarah said you can freeze it.
“This will extend the shelf life of it, but the process of freezing cheese will affect the texture, and the flavour of the product,” she added. “Cheeses that have a high moisture content, for example soft cheeses like brie and camembert, risk forming ice crystals when frozen, and the low temperatures can also suck the moisture out of them, causing them to dry out.
“It is not recommended that you freeze any cheese you want to enjoy eating on a cheeseboard, however freezing a block of cheddar that you intend to grate and use as an ingredient in your cauliflower cheese recipe is fine.
“If you do decide to freeze cheese, wrap it in waxed cheese paper or baking parchment and place in an airtight container before popping it in the freezer, and use within six months.”
Find out about food hygiene courses or read more about reheating food safely at https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/food-hygiene/
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