Neal's Yard Dairy

Cheese Care

Factory cheese is manufactured to taste predictable and it needs to be kept cold in the fridge. Farm cheese is different. It’s hand-made, varies with each day’s production and changes as it matures. Most farm cheese is happiest in a cool damp cellar. Unfortunately these are hard to come by nowadays but you can improvise. We have known customers to use garages, sheds, unheated spare rooms, car boots and even cardboard boxes perched on windowsills. It is simpler to keep your cheese in the fridge, and during warm weather this may be your best option unless you are lucky enough to guarantee that your cellar or equivalent will stay between about 10° - 14°C (or 50° - 60°F). With luck, the following hints will help to maintain the quality of your cheese for as long as possible.

The Cellar

This is the ideal condition for cheese. You need to look at it regularly, touching it and smelling it to see how it is behaving. If you are keeping it too warm the cheese will sweat, ooze oil, feel pappy and smell too strong. However, in the interests of flavour, you are almost always better off erring on the warm side of cheese storage. The cheese may develop slight surface mould but it will taste much better than a smooth, over-chilled slab and the mould can be scraped off.

The Fridge

If you keep cheese in the fridge, the danger is not that it is too cold, but that it will dry out. You can either keep it in a cardboard box or in the salad drawer (particularly if you have some salad vegetables already in it to create a bit of humidity). In some cases, storing in the fridge is the best option. If you need to keep your cheese for a few days, the fridge will slow down its development and you can keep it for longer, provided it doesn’t become dry. When it comes to eating it, bring it out of the fridge a couple of hours early so that it can warm through. This is very important for the flavour as cold cheese will taste bland and inert.

HUMIDITY

Humidity is actually more important than temperature. Most cheese should be kept at a relative humidity of 80% or more. If you don’t happen to have a hygrometer at home, and most people don’t, you need to touch, smell and look. If the cheese is thick with mould, the atmosphere is too wet. A light bloom on a cut surface, however, is a sign that the atmosphere is nice and humid. If cracking occurs, the atmosphere is too dry. Dried-out cheese is difficult to rescue. If it has gone too far, try covering it with a damp cloth. Otherwise, use it for cooking - and store your next cheese differently!

Wrapping

A piece of cheese wrapped in plastic film will become soggy and smelly. Left uncovered, it will dry out. We supply cheese in waxed paper, which seems to achieve the best balance between these two extremes; keep your cheese wrapped in it. You will find it is also handier than cling film for rewrapping.