You’ve done it! You’ve succeeded in making your very own delicious cheese! You’ve carefully coagulated the milk, separated the curd from the whey, compressed the curd, soaked it in brine, and aged it under just the right conditions of temperature and humidity. You’ve tasted it and it tastes delicious. You’ve shared it with friends and family and they also think it has a wonderful flavor. Now you’re ready to store what’s leftover so you can serve it again – and again, and again until it is finished. Now comes the deciding moment. How do you store this cheese so that it remains as flavorful later as it is today?
First of all, it is important to remember that cheese is a living food. Those same bacteria that you used to make the cheese are still in there and still roaming around inside. You may be done with the cheese creation process, but the bacteria are not. Your cheese will continue to ripen and age, even in your refrigerator. The firmer the cheese, the longer it will keep. If properly stored, cheeses like Swiss, Manchego, Blue, and other hard cheeses can be stored for many months. Softer cheeses such as Cottage Cheese, Mascarpone, and others can only be stored for about two weeks before they have to be discarded.
Temperature and moisture are the critical factors that determine how well a cheese stores. Cheese should be stored in your refrigerator at a temperature of 38-42oF in one of the vegetable bins or elsewhere on the bottom of your refrigerator so that it is out of the airflow as much as possible. Wrap your cheese in aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or wax paper to further seal in the moisture. And check your cheese frequently to make sure that the cheese hasn’t dried out or become moldy.
If you see mold on a soft cheese, then throw it out immediately, since that mold will be all the way through. On a hard cheese, however, you can merely cut off the moldy part, since that mold will only be present on the surface.
If your cheese dries and cracks, fret not. All is not lost. It is possible to re-moisten the cheese by wrapping it in a damp towel for 1-2 hours. You can also cover it in a cheesecloth that has been soaked in wine or salt water and wrung out.
Follow these guidelines, and you can be assured that your carefully made cheese will continue to delight you and your guests for many months.