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Buying, Storing, and Keeping Cheese

Martha Stewart Living, February 2006

Fromagere Waldemar Albrecht gives advice on how to keep cheese at its best until you're ready to serve it.

Buying
Always go to a reputable shop, where you'll find the most delectable cheeses at their ripest. Tell the cheese seller what you're planning -- an hors d'oeuvres platter or after-dinner tasting, for example -- and he can suggest cheeses with complementary flavors and textures. And he'll often give you tastes of various cheeses; sampling is the very best way to figure out exactly what you like.

Storing
High humidity (65 percent to 75 percent) is important for cheese -- more important, in fact, than the actual temperature (although 55 degrees is the ideal). Keep cheeses in the crisper of the refrigerator, wrapped in cheesecloth, parchment paper, or the wrapping used by the cheese store. Completely enclosing the cheese in plastic wrap or foil does not let it breathe. If these are the only materials you have on hand, leave the rind exposed so air can reach the cheese. Cheese can be very strong smelling and can impart its aroma to other foods (it can also absorb odors), so if you want another layer of protection, put it in a plastic container with holes poked in the lid.

Shelf Life
Some hard cheeses last months; softer ones, only days. How long your cheese will last depends entirely on its variety and how it's stored. Since the conditions that most higher-end cheese stores maintain are difficult to re-create, try to buy only the amount of cheese you will use immediately. If you have a little too much, don't worry. There are so many fine ways to enjoy good cheese, it won't go to waste!