Setting out to find a new cheese to add to your life is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon. There are some great spots in just about every city to explore new tastes. Once you find your new cheese, having it lose its flavor or dry out before you can share it with others is a sad moment. So let’s talk about caring for the cheese.
As a rule, you shouldn’t slice up your hunk of cheese before you are ready to use it. Unpasteurized cheese will begin to lose subtlety and aroma once it is sliced and more area is exposed to the oxygen in the air. So keep them in hunks as long as you can.
Find out from your cheese vendor, or from searching the Internet, what conditions were used to mature your new-found cheese. Storing your cheese in the same conditions is often the best way to keep it flavorful. For hard, semi-hard, and semi-soft cheeses the normal storing temperature is about 8-13 C (about 46 degrees Fahrenheit) for example. Cheese stored in the refrigerator should be removed about an hour and a half before serving, letting the cheese warm-up allows the flavor and aroma to develop.
Keeping your cheese wrapped in waxed paper is much better than a plastic wrap or plastic container. Waxed paper, inside a loose-fitting storing bag, will not lose humidity and will maintain air circulation. Plastic will often condense air and trap moisture. One exception to this would be blue cheese. Mold spores from blue cheese spread quickly and easily. If they stayed on the cheese that would be fine, but they don’t, and quickly spread to anything close to them. Cheeses contain living organisms that must not be cut off from air, yet it is important not to let a cheese dry out.
Most cheese is like sponges for other strong-smelling odors, so you don’t want to store cheese next to the garlic dip, or anything that might damage the cheese’s flavors.
So what cheese should we be looking for? Really it depends a great deal on what we might be serving with the cheese. If wine is on the list, then that may make it a bit easier to narrow down a good new cheese to bring home.
The rule of thumb for finding cheese to serve with wine is, the whiter and fresher the cheese the crisper and fruitier the wine. White wines normally go better with more cheeses than reds wines do, but a dry fresh red wine goes very well with soft cheeses, especially goat milk types. Light fruity red wines are often the best matches for other cheeses, but the heavier reds are a hard match with cheese. Sweet wines a great with cheeses that have high acidity, the contrast in tastes is often very enjoyable. Dry champagne is a great choice with bloomy white rinds.
The matching of cheese and wine is such an old culinary tradition that when you are first starting out on the matching exploration of these two, try combinations that include cheese and wine from the same geographical regions. There are probably good reasons they make the cheese and wine they do.
Personal enjoyment is the last and most important line of judgment. So enjoy yourself and have a great time exploring new tastes.