"For soft cheeses, a strong smell of ammonia is always a pointer as the cheese is likely to have over developed," says Oliver Sutton, chief fromager of The Cheese Artisans. "For the washed rind soft cheeses such as Epoisses or Livarot always keep an eye out for little white spots developing on the rind, they look a little like salt crystals but are actually calcium lactate and are a sure sign that the cheese has gone over the top. For harder cheeses, its more often a case of the cheese drying out and whilst it is not necessarily “off” the flavours will be flat and nothing like the original piece you purchased."
The Cheese Artisans is a five-year-old wholesale cheese importer that opened a storefront in 2016 just off Bukit Timah. It brings in over 80 varieties of artisanal European cheese and supplies them to hotels as well as top end restaurants here. At its Greenwood location, guests can treat themselves to its wide cheese selection as well as a tapas menu perfect for savouring over a glass (or two) of wine. It also boasts being home to Singapore's first cheese maturing room.
We get the chief fromager to share with us his tips for keeping cheese at home in tip top condition.
1 Buy In Small Quantities
Ever purchased a sizable chunk of cheese, placed it in the fridge and then forgot about it until the day you decide to purge your space only to find that it’s gone off? Before even entertaining the logistics of cheese storage, avoid it in the first place. "In much the same way as a bottle of wine will decrease in quality and eventually oxidise once opened, cheeses will similarly degrade once cut," says Sutton. "Therefore we advise customers to buy enough to enjoy for 2-3 days rather than stock pile large quantities as the quality will eventually deteriorate."
2 Shave It
Some supermarkets and grocers sell their cheese in shrink wrapped plastic. While it isn’t the optimum method of storage, it’s unavoidable. Once you’ve made your purchase though, open it, smell it and taste it. If it has the unmistakable tinge of plastic, shave it very very thinly and keep tasting the shavings until you’re absolutely sure the flavour of plastic is gone. This method is also handy if your cheese develops mould. Says Sutton: "The cheese will be absolutely fine to consume as the mould is usually a result of the combination of damp and air which combined with the cheese create the ideal environment for the mould to develop."
Fridges are moist spaces, especially if the doors are constantly being opened. To avoid fluctuations of humidity from hitting your precious block of cheese, store your wrapped cheese in a sealed container, preferably made of glass. Unlike plastic, glass does not transfer smells. "This will both prevent condensation from hitting the cheese each time you open the fridge as well as preventing it from drying out; not to mention if you have aromatic cheeses they can rather dominate the rest of the fridges contents!" says Sutton.
4 Wrap in wax paper
Any reputable cheese deli should also carry cheese storage bags. But if that’s not available wax or parchment paper is just as good an idea. To do so, simply lay the cheese flat on the piece of paper and wrap it around in neat creases. The idea is to give the cheese some room to breathe while creating a protective environment and to prevent it from drying out. At any point these cheese is unwrapped for consumption, use a fresh piece of paper to wrap it again. Don’t forget to label it.The Cheese Artisans is at 18 Greenwood Avenue.
Recommended reading: Get more tips and insights from experts here.