Tips & guidance
What exactly is fine cheese?
It is a short way of saying Farmhouse and Artisan cheese, but also including the following ideas:
- Comes from great milk; animal welfare and feed are paramount
- Made in a traditional way by masters of the cheesemaking craft
- A properly matured cheese
- Full of health benefits, when consumed in moderation
- Has seasonality
- Has terroir (taste of place)
Fine cheeses are made with great care, precision and love. To get the most out of your fine cheeses at home it is important to know how to correctly store, cut and serve your fine cheeses.
Below are a few tips and guidelines from the Cheese Lady
How to store fine cheese
Farmhouse and artisan cheese is a "live" product which means that it evolves over time. In French, the process of cheese evolution is known as "affinage" and it must be performed by a specialist - an affineur. Under the right conditions (high humidity of 85-90%, relatively high temperature 8-12C) cheeses mature and change in texture and flavour, if they remain uncut. Once the cheese is cut, it no longer matures and it needs to be refrigerated to best preserve its freshness and to avoid spoilage.
The cheeses that you buy from a specialist cheese monger should be kept in the fridge, wrapped in cheese paper (duplex paper) which keeps it in the best condition: it allows cheese to breathe and not dry out or suffocate at the same time. Foil may be used as an alternative, but do avoid using plastic wrap, especially if you'd like to keep cheeses fresh for longer: under-wrapping cheeses in cling film will dry them out, whereas over-wrapping them will suffocate them. Ideally, keep your cheeses in a dedicated vegetable drawer of your fridge where they will be away from drafts and enjoy their own micro-climate.
Soft and blue cheeses can last in the fridge for up to two weeks, whereas firm and hard ones - up to a month (moulds that will grow on open surfaces are normal and can be removed before you enjoy the rest of the cheese).
How to eat fine cheese
Fine Cheeses taste best at room temperature when their flavours are "open". Therefore, we recommend that you take your cheeses out of the fridge at least 30 minutes or even an hour before they will be served. Cut as much as you will need off the bigger piece and put the rest back in the fridge. Lay the cut pieces out on your chosen board, slate or plate, and cover with a cloche so that the cheese comes to room temperature but does not dry out and/or lose its aroma. In the absence of a cloche, cover cheese loosely with cling film or foil.
For a cheese board, arrange 250-400g wedges of cheese on a board and cut at least one slice off each cheese to show how they should be cut. Place a knife next to every cheese - this will help to avoid cross-contamination of flavours. A nice versatile cheese board would include 3 to 5 different cheeses varying in texture, flavour, milk, and aroma.
If you intend to serve individual cheese plates with 3-5 cheeses allow 30g (1oz) of each cheese per person. Again, remember to aim for variety to give your guests a fuller and more exciting dining experience.
If you'd like to compose a well-balanced and versatile cheese board or plate, make sure to include a variety of textures, milks, styles, flavours and aromas. We recommend 4-5 cheeses for a well-balanced selection: a soft, a semi-firm, a firm and/or hard and a blue.