How to Care for Cheeses
The good news is that many cheeses can last up to a few weeks in the refrigerator as long as they are stored properly. The goal is to let the cheese breathe while keeping it from drying out, so your best bet is to wrap it in a finely porous material, such as cheese paper or baking paper, or breathable plastic wrap made especially for cheese. These wrappings control the amount of moisture around the surface of the cheese while still allowing oxygen to move in and out of the packaging. All of these factors make for a substantially longer lifespan in your fridge and retain the quality of the cheese.
By itself, regular plastic wrap does not allow breathability and should not be used to wrap cheese. Cheese is a living, breathing thing, and without proper oxygen, it will suffocate. In a pinch you can use aluminium foil, but if you're a regular cheese shopper, it might be worth it to invest in some specially designed cheese paper. Often these papers can be bought from specialty cheese stores.
That said, if you’ve bought a brie, camembert, or soft washed rind, wrap it back in the paper you bought it in, as the paper has tiny holes that let the cheese breathe at the best rate to maintain quality. Other than that, wrapping your cheese tightly in baking paper and then wrapping it loosely in plastic wrap or popping it in a snaplock box is a great way to store it. The baking paper helps keep the cheese from drying out, while the loose coating of plastic (or box) holds in some moisture, allowing airflow in and around the cheese.
Fresh cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta are made to eat within a day or two of purchase and will deteriorate markedly over time.
We haven’t had much success with waxed fabric wraps as the cheese tends to dry out too quickly. If you do use these wraps, make sure you consume the cheese within a day or two.
Storage for longer than a week: Although it’s ideal though to only buy what you can eat in a week, if you are intending on keeping your unwrapped cheese for longer than that, it's good practice to change the wrapping occasionally to prevent errant mould and bacteria growth. Cheese likes to be kept clean!
Blue cheese is a little different, given that special moulds are added to the curds to give them their signature spicy bite. These moulds have their own special needs. If you're storing a blue variety, feel free to wrap it in aluminium foil; in fact, you might have noticed that some of the blue cheeses you buy come wrapped in foil already.
YOUR VEGGIE DRAWER IS YOUR FRIEND
It's a good idea to keep cheese in your crisper (the drawer in your refrigerator made to store vegetables). These little drawers are actually somewhat climate-controlled to keep your veggies fresher for longer, and they perform the same function when it comes to keeping cheese.
Most hard, aged cheeses will last up to a month when kept properly, and softer semi-firm cheeses can last up to two to three weeks if conditions are ideal. If you notice a few spots of fuzzy white mould growing on your cheese, don't panic. Remember that cheese is fermented with a series of moulds and bacteria, so if you notice a little patch of extra mould here or there, it's perfectly safe to scrape it off. If the cheese has been completely overtaken by mould and especially if its black, well, it's probably best to toss it.
And, because someone always asks: please, best not to freeze, as the flavour and texture may well deteriorate.