The Best Way to Store Dense, Hard Cheeses

how to store cheddar

Hard, dense cheeses are a very broad cheese category.  They range from a dry, crystalline aged Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano to an alpine style cheese like Pleasant Ridge Reserve.   I like to think of these cheeses of being aged 2 months or more - these styles have a denser curd structure with less water content and so they can be aged for months to years.  

The rinds can be natural (aged in open air and rubbed with a brush, brine, or edible oil), waxed (encased in a layer of wax like a gouda), or vaccuum-sealed (think American block cheddar that has no rind).
Once you get a wedge of hard cheese home, it can last weeks, even months, with the proper storage. And even if you only need it to last a few days, chat with us on the best way to keep these dense cheeses in top shape during their stay in your kitchen.
how to store parmesan parmigiano reggiano

1) A Balance of Humidity, Airflow, And Breathability

Hard, dense cheese has time on its side due to its lack of water content.  The softer the cheese, the faster it will ripen and breakdown, making it important to enjoy softer styles within a month or two.  Hard cheese originally was made to extend the shelf-life of fluid milk as long as humanly possible using natural methods (when refrigeration was not an option).

If you're ever wondering what cheese to buy during Armageddon or the Apocalypse, we've got some recommendations and a funny story here...

Even though a hard cheese is the most shelf-stable of cheese categories, it can still have a tendency to dry out or grow mold if not stored in the right conditions.

Since the Cheese Grotto self-regulates high-humidity with the included clay brick humidifier, and since it has a breathable back panel, fresh air supply circulates around the cheese in a gentle way.  And because you're not storing your cheese on plastic tupperware or in plastic/paper that can stick to the cheese paste or rind, there's no risk of moisture being trapped on the surface of the cheese.  When moisture is trapped on the surface of the cheese, this usually results in the rapid degradation of the cheese, and the emergence of molds. These molds of brown, white, and blue can be scraped away leaving the cheese beneath fine to eat.  But it's never ideal to have to throw away any amount of cheese. The Cheese Grotto does not require you to wrap your cheese, so it can live in a gently aerated, humid climate that preserves its freshness.

how is parmesan made?

2) Hard Cheese Can Dry Out If Humidity Conditions Aren't Met

Have you ever noticed the surface of a hard cheese becoming too firm and cracking?  This is due to the fact that the faces of the cheese are not receiving enough humidity. 

When you give hard cheese a nice humid, breathable climate it will retain its freshness for much longer and will slow down the rate of oxidization of the cheese surface.

best way to store aged pecorino

3) Hard Cheese Will Last Longer When Stored in the Fridge, But It's Best Eaten at Room Temperature

We've said it before and we'll say it again - cheese is best served at room temperature.  With hard cheese, the texture is often too tight and the flavors are extremely subdued when initially taken out of the refrigerator.  The one caveat here is it takes longer for a hard cheese to come to room temperature - an hour or more. 

As you may have noticed, the Cheese Grotto is designed to be stored in the fridge or on the counter.  Many die-hard cheese enthusiasts store their cheese on the counter during the week they'll be enjoying it.  The Grotto is a pure joy for those cheese-loving folks.  The benefit of keeping hard cheese out at room temperature in the Grotto is that the flavor and texture of the hard cheese cheese is ready to eat at any moment, eliminating the need to take the cheese out one hour prior to eating for the best experience. 

If your ultimate goal is to keep your hard cheese wedge for as long as humanly possible, please store the Grotto in the fridge.  It will slow down the rate of fermentation and it will extend the shelf-life, according to dairy lab scientists and cheese experts

 should cheese be eaten at room temperature

4) If You're Not Quite Ready for a Cheese Grotto, Here's Some Other Suggestions

  • Wrap cheese in cheese paper or bee's wrap, the two next best options
  • Place the wrapped cheese in a more humid section of your fridge, like the vegetable drawer, so it doesn't dry out.
  • If storing cheese on the counter in a traditional cheese dome, be sure to lift the dome for fresh air supply to get to the cheese so it doesn't suffocate.

how to store cheese for months

Jessica Sennett is the founder and inventor of Cheese Grotto. Her whole life is cheese - seriously.

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