It’s a wrap

With all the paper industry here in this country you would think that at least one company would make the kind of cheese paper that is used in the better European cheese shops. This two-ply semi-permeable paper is also now being used here in the states, and we use it here as well. It consists of very lightly waxed paper on the inside (the side that rests against the cheese) and a paper that is closer to parchment or butcher paper on the outside. This type paper allows the cheese to breath and does not leave the light plastic residue left behind by plastic wraps.

Most cheeses can tolerate plastic wrapping for a short time; the harder cheeses can hold up under plastic for weeks, but is not ideal. For convenience and cost considerations the cling film frequently used for wrapping cheese is kind of a necessary evil. Wrapping cheese in that two-ply paper is preferred. When I say that cheese is allowed to “breath” it is not as though the cheese is huffing and puffing. A little bit of air exchange helps to keep the cheeses in good condition far longer. Cheese is, after all, a “living” food.

Some cheeses require more air exchange than others, especially the goat milk cheeses. Even that two-ply cheese paper can be a little too suffocating for the young chèvres. And of course, the softer runnier cheeses can stick to the paper once the paste is exposed. For example, if you have not finished your Epoisses it is not so easy to wrap up the leftover portion. That would be like trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube. For those occasions that you think you will not finish your soft cheese in one setting it would be easier to leave it in its wooden box (if it comes that way) and then to cover the entire box with some cling film. A little air underneath that wrap will be sufficient for the cheese, and the film will not come in contact with cheese paste. If the softer cheese comes in some other wrapping you can reuse it if it is not soiled. The only problem with wrapping a softer cheese under paper (or plastic, or aluminum foil) is that some of the cheese will stick to the paper, and some of the moisture may make the paper so wet that it does not serve its purpose effectively. Another option with leftover softer cheeses is to put the remaining cheese into a bowl and then cover it with the cling film.

If your cheese has been under plastic wrap it is recommended that you “face” the cheese by taking a knife and scraping the edge of the cheese lightly. This should remove what little plastic residue may have settled on the cheese surface. In one of the finest cheese shops in Portugal the paper they use to wrap their cheeses is closer to the kind of paper used for grocery sacks. That kind of paper can soak up some of the delicious butterfats in cheese. You don’t want to lose any of that.

Cheeses that are wrapped in paper should be wrapped snugly. To observe our team wrapping cheese is a sight to behold. They are quick, efficient, and you would think that they had part-time jobs wrapping gifts at Macy’s.

For some cheeses the preferred wrapping is aluminum foil, especially for many blue cheeses.

- Max McCalman

Spread the curd!
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Posted by Artisanal Cheese

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