Whether it’s in a sandwich, topping pasta, or simply on it’s own, cheese is one of the world’s favourite foods.
We reached out to Sydney Willcox, formerly the head cheese monger at Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village, and asked her what even true cheese connoisseurs get wrong about their favourite decadent treat.
Keep reading to see what everyone gets wrong about cheese.
Mistake No. 1: Wrapping cheese with plastic wrap.
Even though the cheese may come in plastic wrap, you should be wrapping it up in parchment or wax paper when you’re done.
“Cheese needs to breathe, and plastic wrap inhibits that ability,” Willcox explained. “When the wrap is too tight, as often the case with plastic, the cheese is more likely to grow unwanted bacteria; the tight wrap also prevents the cheese from breathing out off odours (such as ammonia, which is a natural byproduct of the cheese and needs to be released from the cheese).”
Plus, it can leave the cheese tasting plastic-y.
Mistake No. 2: Throwing out cheese with mould on it.
Willcox said that unwanted mould on cheese is not the end of the world.
“If white or blue mould is growing on the outside of a cheese, the cheese is not ruined,” Willcox explained. “Simply cut away the face of the cheese that has the mould on it and you’re set to go.”
She does warn though that with a whey cheese, like ricotta, the mould can grow inside the cheese, so you shouldn’t eat it.
Mistake No. 3: Lactose intolerant people can’t eat cheese.
This is true with some cheeses, but not all.
“The lactic acid in milk is in the whey (the liquids, as opposed to the curd or solids), so the less moisture a cheese has, the less lactic acid it has,” Willcox said. “If your body takes issue with lactose, stick it firm aged cheeses.”
Mistake No. 4: Not serving cheese at room temperature.
When you have guests coming over, don’t just plop some cheese down on a plate directly from the fridge. Give it time to reach room temperature.
“Cheese should be eaten at room temp to allow to flavours and textures to be enhanced to their full and natural state,” Willcox said. You’ll have a tastier cheese plate if you let the cheese sit out a while.
Mistake No. 5: Keeping all cheeses in the fridge.
“Many people still have it in their head that cheese needs to live in a cold, cold fridge,” Willcox said. Not so!
Back when cheese was first made, it didn’t need to be kept in the refrigerator and it still doesn’t. “Cheese is a product that has gone through a controlled spoilage of milk,” Willcox said. “Very firm cheeses, such as Parmesan, can be kept out of the fridge for weeks — their life span just wont be quite as long.”
If you do want to keep your cheese in the fridge, keep it in the warmest spot, like the vegetable drawer. A too-cold spot will keep the cheese from breathing, according to Willcox.
Mistake No. 6: Assuming all cheeses have equal shelf lives.
There are numerous cheese families and each one has a unique shelf life and ages in different ways.
“Get to know your cheeses,” Willcox advised. “Each cheese family has a different shelf life, peaks at a different age, prefers to be eaten at a different temperature, and pairs with different beverages and condiments.”
Visit a cheese monger and don’t be afraid to ask questions. They’re there to help.
Mistake No. 7: Not trying different cheeses within a cheese family.
This is especially true for people who say they hate all blue cheeses or all stinky cheese.
“People who think they dislike all blue cheeses are often used to one not-so-good, tart, past-its-peak blue,” Willcox said. “Blue cheeses get stronger or more stinging as they sit around so if you’re not eating from a fresh wheel you are likely getting a piece that would turn off even an avid cheese lover.
Instead, try a mild blue cheese like a Cambozola Black Label or Cheriboga, and apply this to all different kinds of cheese. Even if you think you don’t like something, you could be in for an eye-opening (and mouth-watering) experience.