Artisanal Cheese: Choosing and Storing
Hand-made in small quantities according to long-standing techniques, recipes and traditions, artisanal cheeses come in a wide variety of flavors and forms. Here you'll find some basic guidelines on how to choose and store these specialty cheeses to be sure you enjoy their full flavor potential.
Four Flavor Categories of Artisanal Cheese
Depending on their intensity of flavor, artisanal cheeses can basically be divided into four categories: mild, medium, bold and strong.
When composing a cheese plate for entertaining, you might want to choose one cheese from each category and sample them in order, starting with the mild varieties.
Mild-flavored cheeses include soft cheeses like chevres and triple-cream varieties.
Examples: Humboldt Fog, Goat Gouda, Cremont, Saint Andre
Pair with: A light white or sparkling wine or a pilsner beer.
Medium-flavored cheeses include semi-soft cheeses and soft cheeses with bloomy rinds.
Examples: Brie, Camembert, Manchego, Ossau Iraty, Fontina
Pair with: A light red wine, dry rose or a lager beer.
Bold cheeses include semi-firm or washed-rind cheeses with a slightly assertive flavor.
Examples: Aged Cheddar, Comte, Mahon
Pair with: Medium bodied red wines and ales.
Strong-flavored cheeses include classic blues and long-aged goudas and cheddars.
Examples: Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton, 4-Year Gouda, 6-Year Cheddar
Pair with: Dessert wines, port or a stout.
How To Store Artisanal Cheese
As a general rule of thumb, you'll want to keep artisanal cheeses in their original packaging until ready to serve.
Leftovers should be wrapped as follows:
Wrap cheeses with hard rinds in plastic, but leave the rind exposed so the cheese can breathe.
Wrap blue cheeses in aluminum foil.
Wrap washed-rind cheeses in wax paper.
Wrap soft cheeses in wax paper or place them in a sealed container.
Once wrapped, store artisanal cheeses in the vegetable or deli bin of your refrigerator with the humidity control (if you have one) turned to medium-high.