What you should know about buying, storing, and preparing cheese.
Cheese’s longevity is part of its charm. Storing cheese is just as important as knowing how to buy it. Follow these tips, and you’ll see how simple it can be.
1. Taste before you buy. Most cheese sellers are happy to cut a piece for you to try.
2. Pay attention to the cheese’s texture. It provides a window into the flavor: Soft cheeses are fresh and mild, and hard cheeses tend toward salty, nutty, pungent flavors.
3. Consider the source. Ask if the cheese is made with cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s milk. This, too, provides a clue to the flavor.
4. Store cheese in a refrigerator drawer. Avoid storing in the door, where it is vulnerable to temperature swings. Wrap hard cheeses in waxed paper, then store them in a zip-top plastic bag to preserve quality.
5. Trim the mold. If your semihard or hard cheeses have grown blue or green mold, trim ¼ to ½ inch beneath the mold. The rest is fine to use. Even cheese that has become dry and hard is good to use—just grate it.
6. Save the rind of Parmesan cheese. Toss it into soups, beans, and chili to add savory flavor. When cooked, discard the rind.
7. Cut soft cheeses with care. Use unflavored dental floss or a cheese cutter with a wire to cut delicate, soft cheeses.
8. Freeze soft cheese before grating. For easier grating, place softer cheeses (such as fontina and Monterey Jack) in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes beforehand.
9. Shred for texture. Shred cheese for recipes using the larger holes of a box grater or in a food processor. For a finer texture, grate cheese using the smaller holes of a box grater or with the steel knife of a food processor.
10. Invest in good tools. We recommend the Zyliss brand handheld cheese grater. Microplanes, in both coarse and fine textures, are well suited to create hard cheese garnishes in varying shapes; using a vegetable peeler or chocolate shaver gives you thin sheets or shards to change the look of a dish even more.