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Cheese Tips

Helpful tips, how-to's and information on cheese.

Here are some terrific tips and important basics of caring for cheese to ensure that it stays its freshest and most delicious longer.

Plan to serve cheese at your next party? Always serve cheese at room temperature for optimum flavor.

Bulk cheese will keep longer when it's wrapped in a paper towel dampened with vinegar and placed in a sealed plastic bag. The vinegar will inhibit mold growth. Re-moisten the paper towel every few days, as needed.

Cheese should have a fresh, clean appearance with no cracks or surface mold. Be sure the packaging is sealed properly, without any openings or tears that expose the cheese.

Check the "use by" or "sell by" dates on packaged cheese. If buying fresh cut cheese, ask the clerk how best to wrap the cheese for storage as well as how long the cheese can be kept.

Because cheese easily absorbs other flavors, keep it away from other aromatic foods in the refrigerator.

Refrigerate cheese between 34°F (1°C) and 38°F (3°C).

Cheese loses flavor and moisture when it's exposed to air, so make sure to wrap hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, in tightly drawn plastic wrap. Soft or fresh cheeses, such as mascarpone, are best stored in clean, airtight containers. Semi-hard cheeses, including cheddar and gouda, can be wrapped in plastic wrap as well as a lighter wrapping paper, such as parchment.

Most cheese is easiest to cut when chilled. However, some hard cheeses, such as Parmesan or Asiago, cut better when they are brought to room temperature.

A chef's knife works well for cutting most cheeses. If the cheese has a wax or rind, score it before you begin, ensuring a clean cut line.

If cheese develops surface mold, simply cut off about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from each affected side and use the remaining cheese within one week.

Cheese may be frozen but is not recommended since freezing cheese will change the texture. Semi-soft and hard cheeses will be more crumbly while softer cheeses will separate slightly. The best candidates for freezing are firm cheeses, such as Swiss, and hard cheeses, such as Parmesan. The nutritional value will remain stable.

When freezing cheese, wrap pieces tightly in weights of 1 pound or less. Label and date your cheese before storing it at temperatures of about 0°F.

It's best to thaw cheese in the refrigerator and use the cheese within a couple of days.

The best use for cheese that has been frozen is in recipes that call for melting cheese, such as casseroles and hot sandwiches.

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