Editor’s Note: This post was written by Natasha Manning, Cheese Monger and Regional Manager of Pacific Northwest and Mountain Regions of Murray’s in Kroger stores!
As cheese mongers, we have extra pressure on our shoulders when it comes to entertaining guests during the holidays. After all, they look to us as the cheese experts! Given my profession, I am expected to bring cheese, accompaniments and make them all look flawless together without being asked by my family members. Here’s some of my favorite tips on cutting, storing, and enjoying the different families of cheeses.
After purchasing soft cheeses, we recommend eating within a week of purchase. These cheeses have a high moisture content; which makes them more sensitive to their environment. These natural stars of the show can hold their own on a cheese board. Just place a soft-cheese knife, strategically beside your Delice de Bourgogne or Fromager D’Affinois, and serve as needed.
Soft cheeses generally dislike pre-portioning as this causes the paste to run, so serving as you go works best. Leaving the rind on helps protect them; I encourage guests to try the paste and rind separately-then together- for a complete cheese appreciation experience. Some folks dislike the rind and that’s okay, you can take them out of the Will.
Semi-firm cheeses have a bit more longevity and can hold up 14-21 days in refrigeration. From personal experience, they love the crisper drawer. The Murray’s Cheese Slicer works well to portion these cheeses for easy serving, as well as delicately shave off the paste of the cheese closest to the plastic, as this area can actually absorb off flavors from the plastic wrap if not consumed quickly. At Murray’s, we cut our cheese with an equal rind to paste ratio, so you can follow the same idea when presenting it to your guests! Most of these cheeses look fantastic cut into smaller, triangular, bites.
Depending on the climate you reside in, firm cheeses can live outside the fridge. However; if they’re out of the fridge for over a week, you may have to place them in refrigeration from time to time. Do not leave them in one place, as gravity will pull the butterfat toward the bottom of the wedge, leaving the top part dry. The Murray’s Hard Cheese Knife works well to portion harder cheese as it firmly yet gently grasps the curds. To grate or crumble harder cheeses over delicious recipes, Boska Oak Table Grater has several culinary options in one tool for exceptional results.
Cheese naturally releases ammonia as it ages, much like our ever-evolving morning breath as we level up, yet that doesn’t necessarily indicate that it’s over ripe. Letting it air out reduces this odor. Utilizing cheese storage bags allows for cheese to breathe easily! There’s even an eco-friendly option, the Bee’s Cheese wrap, which works fantastically while reducing the carbon footprint.
When purchasing cheese at the Bleecker street counter in NYC to bring back to the PNW to enjoy; my favorite cheese monger first wraps my cheese in special cheese paper, then plastic wrap. This process keeps my cheese pristine during the long taxi ride through NYC traffic, examination by the TSA and 6 hour plane ride. Remarkably, this process also prevents any questionable aromas emitting from my carry-on, which may offend other passengers.
Of course, please place your cheese out of the fridge (and out of reach from hungry pets, children and estranged relatives) at room temperature a minimum of an hour before serving. This allows the flavor of your cheese to fully develop for maximum pallet pleasure, and it allows for those gooey cheeses to be perfect and spoonable for your guests.