Tips on how to best look after the cheese you have purchased or been given as a gift…
Cheese should be stored in a cool place: Harder cheeses at about 10 °C (your porch, if you have one, can be a great place during the winter months). For softer and blue cheeses 4°C is ideal. A good compromise is to store all your cheese in the vegetable compartment of your fridge, usually at around 4.5°C. It can be stored in its original wrapper. If you are removing portions, you can re-wrap in greaseproof paper or better yet, cheese paper. Clingfilm is fine for harder cheeses.
RINDS AND DATES
Cheese is a natural product, and from time to time you can expect some blooms and moulds to develop on the outside, this is perfectly natural. Some people prefer not to eat the rind at all. As a rule of thumb – on hard cheeses, the rind is best removed, on softer cheeses it is by most considered to be an integral part of the cheese, but it should always be a case of personal preference (if you enjoy it – eat it if you don’t, then don’t!) the cheese (paste) just under the rind is usually the tastiest! Best before and use by dates should be respected, although it is very difficult for the cheesemaker to determine the exact date when a cheese will no longer be of the best quality. Taste and smell are always your best tools to ascertain whether a cheese is good to eat! As mentioned above yeasts and moulds are to be expected, so you can scrape any that form on the cheese off if you wish.
When serving, remove only the amount you think you will use for the occasion from the cooler storage place. Take out about an hour before serving, and allow to come to room temperature. Leaving cheese come up to room temperature (“to chambre”) allows it to develop a fuller, more aromatic flavour. Having said that many modern houses are too warm for ‘chambre-ing’ cheeses, and cheese can become overly pungent, runny and ‘sweaty’ if kept at too warm a temperature. Try and let the cheese come up to temperature in a relatively cool place, and bear in mind that room temperature is not a hot kitchen – more a cool pantry. Harder cheeses can need a little more time than softer ones.
For a cheeseboard allow around 100g approximately of cheese in total for each guest. Therefore if you are serving 10 people and have 4 kinds of cheese, you would serve around 1kg in total, so about of 250g of each cheese.
The amount of cheese required will also depend on whether the cheeses are to be served after dinner, at a tasting or as finger food etc. The manner in which the cheese is to be served – whether as individual cheese plates, buffet style, or as cheeseboards – will also affect the quantities required.
Cheese is a product to be enjoyed, and our aim is to ensure this happens, so, please eat it the way you like it – in good company and preferably along with a good bottle of wine or a really good Irish beer or cider!