We strive to produce the finest possible cheese and it is important to us that you experience it at its best. Unlike the generic ‘mass-produced’ products, which are designed to taste the same and sit in the fridge for as long as possible, our cheeses are individuals and like a bit more care and attention!
That said, there are no hard and fast rule for looking after cheese and a lot will depend on the type of cheese, what facilities you have available and also the time of year. The best advice is to keep looking at it, smelling it and touching it and you will soon ‘tune in’ to its requirements.
Here are a few general hints and guidelines to help along the way, so that you can preserve the quality of your cheese for as long as possible and, most importantly, get maximum enjoyment from it. It is well worth the effort!
The best place to store cheese is in a cool, damp cellar but not everyone has one at their disposal. However, try and think of the conditions you would find there as the ideal and try to get as close to it as possible. Climatic conditions also have a part to play and you may have to adjust your storage accordingly. During the winter, unheated spare rooms or a garage can be used but in warmer weather the best place might be the fridge.
Most cheese is happiest being kept at its maturing temperature, which for Swaledale cheese is around 10°C for the natural rind cheese and 8°C for the waxed varieties. If it is too warm, the cheese will sweat, become oily and over pungent. Yet if it is too cold, the cheese will taste bland and loose character.
Most cheese should be kept at a humidity of 80% or more but unless you have a hygrometer this can be hard to measure. Again, you are best using your own observations. A light bloom on the cut surface of a cheese is fine but if thick mould forms then the atmosphere is too damp. However, if the cheese dries out or cracks appear then the atmosphere is too dry.
In practice, getting humidity levels right means finding a place as close to cellar conditions as possible. This can be done by covering the cheese with a clean, damp cloth or by keeping the cheese in a container such as a cardboard box. If you are using the fridge, wrap and store the cheese in the drawer at the bottom. This is usually a slightly higher temperature and, as it is a confined space, more humid.
Cheese wrapped in cling film will become soggy and smelly but if left uncovered, it could dry out. A good compromise is to use waxed or greaseproof paper, which allows the cheese to breathe. Blue cheese should be wrapped particularly well to prevent mould spores spreading to other products and, in this instance, kitchen foil is a good alternative.
Finally, do not store the cheese close to strong smelling food as it is likely to absorb the flavours.
A lot depends on the shape of the cheese but as a general rule you should cut it so you are leaving as small a cut surface as possible. This will help prevent the cheese from drying out. A clean knife should always be used to cut cheese.
It is also essential to return the cheese to room temperature a couple of hours before eating, which helps to restore the flavours.
All our natural rind cheeses are matured for four weeks at 10°C and over this period they form a natural rind, which appears like a mouldy crust. When presenting the cheese, remove the wax paper and simple brush off any excess mould. You should be able to keep the cheese before cutting into it for around two months. Once you have cut into it then it should keep for a couple of weeks.
Please be aware that all cheese are living things and once you have cut into it and expose a surface, the cheese will start to produce its own natural rind again. Don’t worry if this happens, just trim off and serve as usual.
Our waxed cheese are waxed at three days old and then matured for a month. Because the cheese is sealed in wax it retains its moisture, giving a slightly softer texture then the natural rind cheese. These cheeses can be stored at 8°C, or just below, and can be kept for around three months. Once cut, the cheese should be fine for a couple of weeks.
As we have said above, all cheeses are living things and once you have cut into it and exposed a surface, the cheese will start to produce its own natural rind again. This is not a problem, just trim it off and serve as usual.