Airtight packaging is the key to cheese storage.
- If the cheese has a rind, leave it on to keep the cheese fresh. Wrap unused cheese tightly in foil or plastic wrap, then seal it in a plastic bag or a container with a tight-fitting lid. Store the cheese in the refrigerator.
- Most cheese comes stamped with a "sell by" date on the package. In general, the softer the cheese, the shorter the storage life. If there is no date on the container, soft cheeses, such as cottage and ricotta, should be stored no longer than five days after purchase. Firm and hard cheeses have less moisture and can be stored for longer periods. For instance, sharp cheddar may keep for weeks in your refrigerator, if properly wrapped.
- For longer storage, cheese can be frozen, but expect a quality compromise. Freezing usually destroys the texture and affects the flavor and aroma. For instance, semisoft and hard cheeses will be more crumbly, and soft cheeses may separate slightly. Because of these changes, it's best to reserve cheeses that have been frozen for use as ingredients -- in casseroles, for example.
- As cheese ages, it naturally develops more flavor and may develop surface mold. Most surface mold looks unappealing but is harmless. For firm cheese, cut away at least one inch around the moldy area and use the remaining cheese. Discard soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese, ricotta, and cream cheese, that have mold.