I have read a lot of misinformation about what you should and shouldn't do with cheese.
Having spent a lifetime eating the stuff, as well as having the chance to visit several dairies, this instructable is based on what I have learned.
It shows you how to make a cheese box for your fridge that is both more effective and more convenient than the alternatives.
Step 1: Some Basics
Cheese is essentially a way of storing and transporting milk in an efficient and tasty way.
I have read information telling you to only keep cheese for a week in the fridge. Apart from whey cheeses such as ricotta and cottage cheese, this is clearly not the case; many improve with age with some really built to last
There are hundreds of different types which can be categorised in many ways: hard/soft; pasteurised/raw; cow/goat; pressed/unpressed; aged/fresh etc.
This instructable does not cover every aspect of cheesemaking or go into great detail in types of cheese.
Above are images from the production of parmesan in Italy. They show the separation of the curd, the moulding and brining of the wheels before the ageing process.
Step 2: Where Should I Store My Cheese?
It is generally accepted that the refrigerator is the best place to store your cheese.
If you are serving cheese to guests, it is best to take it out to allow it to reach room temperature before serving (at least an hour).
Many soft cheeses (brie, camembert e.g.) will keep for a long time in the fridge without properly ripening. These need to be kept at room temperature for 2-3 days to properly ripen.
The picture above shows parmesan being aged. This process takes a minimum of 12 months.
The tapping process is used to determine if there are any defects in the cheese structure. Do not hit your cheese with a hammer.
You can also store cheese in your freezer. Cheezes that freeze well are those high in fat such as stilton and parmesan. Avoid freezing cheeses that are lower in fat. Cheddar freezes fine, although it might turn a bit crumbly on defrosting.
Step 3: How Should I Store My Cheese?
You should remove any plastic wrapping, wrap in greaseproof paper and put it in an airtight container in your fridge.
The airtight container will prevent the whole fridge smelling cheesy
The greaseproof paper allows the cheese to breath so it doesn't get sweaty or mouldy.
In addition, I recommend lining the bottom of the container in newspaper. This keeps the moisture content of the container under control.
In these conditions, a hard cheese will keep in fine condition for weeks/months.
Step 4: An Improved Cheese Box
Improving the cheese box meant thinking about how we use it.
Often we might just want one or two slices of cheese to have on a cracker or in a sandwich.
This means getting the box out of the fridge, finding a knife, finding a chopping board, cutting the cheese then washing everything and putting it away.
If we put the knife and the chopping board in the box, we have saved a lot of trouble.
How to install a chopping board in the cheese box?
I started with a glass storage box with a snap on airtight lid.
I didn't get this from IKEA, but it looks as though they have a similar one (shown above) called FÖRTROLIG.
Mine is about 20cm across the top. I chose glass rather than all plastic as it is easier to see what's inside, but a plastic one would work fine. In fact a plastic one is a better use of space as the walls are thinner and not so angled. Anyway - this box has plenty of room inside. The chopping board needs to be cut to fit the recess inside the sealing part of the lid.
I had an old chopping board that was ideal for this project. It is made from polypropylene I believe. It shouldn't be too thick.
In order to cut the chopping board I pressed the lid of the container into a piece of paper sitting on a jiffy bag. This gave a clear impression of the inside dimension we needed. I then cut this out of paper and checked the size before transferring to the chopping board.
Step 5: Fitting the Chopping Board
How to cut a material that has been designed to resist cutting?
Actually this was surprisingly easy. Polypropylene cuts well using woodwork tools.
I cut out the rough shape with a hacksaw and then planed the edges to the right size.
With a bit of luck, you should be able to get the chopping board so that it just presses into the recess.
That way you don't need to secure with anything and is easy to pop out when you want to wash it.
Then you need to find a knife. I managed to find this stainless cheese knife that would fit in the box nicely.
I first measured the box and then find a knife online that looked as though it would fit.
Step 6: Using the Cheese Box
I suggest lining the bottom of the cheese box with newspaper. This seems to do a great job at absorbing the odours and keeping the moisture level down.
My preferred lining material is the FT because of the colour, but here I am using a Times weather report, I think. You will find that some newspapers are already too cheesy to absorb the odours so watch out!
Fold it a couple of times to fit in the bottom.
Then take your cheese and wrap it individually in greaseproof paper.
Put the knife in the box and you are ready to go.
Some may be concerned about cross contamination of cheeses from the knife or board.
It is up to you how fussy you are with this. I am not.
With hard cheeses I generally wash the knife and board the third or fourth time I have used them, but with soft cheese every time. If you cut the cheese on its paper then you don't need to wash the chopping board.
Useful fact: Nearly all cheese rinds are edible (not the wax ones of course!). They might not all taste great, but don't automatically throw them away. The cheeses in the picture are a cheddar, a hard Spanish goat cheese and a piece of parmesan. Both the goat cheese and the parmesan have rinds you can eat. They are the same material as the rest of the cheese but just developed in a different way. Parmesan rind can be very tough, but can be melted and is often used in soups.