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How can I make hard cheese keep longer, while preserving texture?

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I like to keep hard cheese at home, and use it from time to time -- in everything from sandwiches to cooking.

However, there are periods (sometimes up to a few weeks) when I just don't use all that much cheese for a variety of reasons.

What usually happens then is that I'm left with a moldy half an already small chunk of cheese (I already buy basically the smallest ones available in the stores), where I can either cut the moldy parts away and have something like a cube maybe 5 cm to the side left, or simply give up and throw it away entirely. Both options seem highly wasteful.

I already keep the cheese in a sealed, evacuated but not vacuum-sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator, but that doesn't seem to help much.

It's not so much an issue in outright cooking, but for sandwiches, I would really like to preserve texture as well.

What can I do to make the cheese keep longer?

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3 answers

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Your mileage may vary, but I've discovered that I get longer life out of hard cheese (and some other dairy products) in the fridge by not sealing them carefully. Of course it's a careful balancing act - you want to let just enough dry fridge air in to dispel that clammy, mould-loving environment, but not enough to cause the cheese itself to start drying out.

The mature cheddar I like to buy comes in a soft plastic package with a zip-seal to let you reseal it between uses. Rather than zipping the seal shut, these days I leave it open and just fold the plastic around the cheese, then wrap a rubber band around it loosely. This seems to get the balance about right.

I have a similar trick with sour cream - here it comes in a little pot with a peel-back plastic seal under a plastic lid. I throw the lid away and leave the peel-back flap attached on one edge, and just lay it back over the opening while the cream is in the fridge. Sure, the residue on the inner walls of the pot might go a bit dry and crusty, but the cream at the bottom is fine, and I'm convinced it takes longer to go mouldy than it did before I started throwing the lids away.

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Depending on the type of hard cheese, freezing may be a viable possibility. I've successfully frozen cheddar, mozzarella, and Swiss cheese and used them for cooking later with no noticeable detriment to flavor or texture. I'm not sure they would hold up to straight munching though, and my one experiment at freezing Brie was a disaster.

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The name "Cheddar" is used rather generically, but the Cheddars I'm used to become very crumbly when frozen. Fine for grating or chopping into cubes for a salad, but annoying when making sandwiches. Peter Taylor 2 months ago

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Storing hard cheese in a refrigerator isn't required in order to preserve it.

Cooling down or even freezing cheese messes up its structure (and therefore its texture as you noted) so it's best to store hard cheese in a dry, cool and dark place like a pantry. If you don't have one, your cellar might suffice as long as the cellar is not humid.

Wrap your cheese into a cheesecloth and you can easily store it as it is in a space meeting aforementioned criteria. If you don't have a cheesecloth (I guess most people don't have one), you can also use a plain white cotton cloth with a moderately sized mesh.

For extended periods, you should soak the cloth with vinegar, for more details see https://goldenagecheese.com/blog/specialty-cheese/storing-cheddar-cheese-without-refrigeration/.

This only works for hard cheese, soft cheese should always be stored in a refrigerator and consumed when it's still fresh.

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The success of this must depend heavily on environmental factors. I live in the southeastern US and have 80%+ humidity during the summer months. I have tried various preservation techniques similar to the above with utterly unsatisfactory results. Sigma 2 months ago

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