Cheese storage tips

September 2, 2009

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During the Canadian National Exhibition I was invited by the Dairy Farmers of Canada to come and visit their All you Need is Cheese experiential kitchen and tasting area. Besides getting to eat a whole lotta cheese made with Canadian milk, I also got a chance to interview DFC spokesperson Anne-Marie Shubin who told me that the number one question people ask her is “how should I store cheese?”

Well, if you’re one of those curious people, here are Anne Marie’s tips for storing cheese:

1. Resist over-buying. Once cheese is cut it won’t get better with age and freezing cheese always diminishes its texture.
2. Wrap soft cheeses, which have living rinds, first in parchment paper or foil and then in plastic so that there is some oxygen available to keep the rind alive.
3. Wrap firm cheeses in plastic wrap and change the wrap frequently so that mold growth is discouraged.
4. If you discover a few millimetres of mold growing on your cheese, it’s perfectly safe to cut it off; however, before cutting it up to eat, clean your cutting board and knife and discard the wrappings.
5. Always wrap blue cheeses well and store them in separately from other cheeses to prevent their pungency from changing the flavour of the other cheeses in your refrigerator.
6. It’s safe to bring cheese to room temperature before you serve it but make sure it is wrapped so that the surface doesn’t dehydrate.
7. If cheese has been at room temperature for 3 hours or more, it should be discarded.

How many kinds of cheese do you usually have on hand at one time? Is there one kind of cheese that you simply have to have at all times?

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Cheese on a roll

May 1, 2009

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In the “why didn’t I think of this?” category: Unwrap and roll mozzarella cheese!

What a fantastic idea for making cheese appetizers all your own. These sheets of mozzarella are perfect for filling with all kinds of yummy stuff. While serving the entire filled log is a terrific way to show off your cheese creativity, I’d love to try placing a thickly-sliced spiral of one of these filled cheeses on top of a toasted piece of bread to soften and warm, too.

I haven’t found a store in my area that sells this tricked out cheesy goodness, but I’ve got money in my pocket reserved to buy a pack or two as soon as I find it!

As soon as I find some, I’m going to fill one with nutless arugula pesto, roasted red peppers and chopped kalamata olives. What would you roll up in this cheesy wrapper?

Also, have you see any clever new food products lately?


Topline Trends Tuesday: Fondue

April 21, 2009

fondueI wish I could tell you how many times I’ve been told by a PR flak that “fondue is back!” (except that they usually say it in capital letters!) Seriously, it must be a claim made at least every two years if not more often. Regrettably, the only thing that usually supports a news flash that fondue is back like it’s 1971 again is that an appliance company has put out a new fondue pot and it’s trying to sell lots of them. Then, some poor, tired and overworked food editor succumbs to these self interested messages and prints a story about how fondue is back in fine form. Bridal magazines are particularly apt to write such stories.

I had long given up on fondue ever really becoming more than a wish as a trend until I was at the IACP Conference in Denver earlier this month and saw Peggy Fallon’s new book: Great Party Fondue. Peggy may just resurrect this trend not because she has great PR folks (although I’m sure she does), but because Peggy actually reinvents fondue in healthy, appealing ways that make even a jaded old naysayer like me want to break out the dipping forks. Many of her recipes are cheesy and traditional but the recipes that could bring fondue pots out of the pantry closet and onto the dining table are her veggie based fondues that basically take the appeal of soup and make it into a concoction you can’t resist dipping into again and again.

When’s the last time you had fondue? Did you make it at home or have it when you were a guest?


One secret of cheese making revealed

March 12, 2009

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I eat all kinds of cheese in abundance but Cheddar cheese holds a special place in my diet. In fact, it’s not only one of my favourite foods but one of my favourite ingredients as well. So, when I got an opportunity to hang out with an artisan cheese maker for an afternoon, I was pretty excited!

My old friend Ruth Klahsen (she was one of my instructors at the Stratford Chefs school) is the owner and chief cheesemaker behind the much-acclaimed Monforte cheese company. She hooked me up with Rachel Bauman, one of her cheese makers, so that I could learn a little more about how my favourite food is transformed from liquid to solid.

While I learned enough to write a full-length article, one of the most fascinating tidbits I gleaned from Rachel is how cheese makers control mold growth when making the cloth bound Cheddar pictured above. Once the cheese curds are pressed into a form to make a wheel of cheese and it has drained for a while, the cheese maker coats each piece all over in lard and then wraps it up in cheesecloth. The mold you see on the outside of the cheese above is essential to develop delicious, sharp flavour; however, it must be kept in check. That’s where the lard comes in. It’s the food that the mold eats so that it doesn’t affect the cheese undesirably. Neat, huh?

What’s your favourite cheese? If you had to choose just one cheese to commit to for the rest of your life, could you?

In related news, check out this warning posted earlier this week on The Kitchn. Hearing about crappy tactics like this one make me love honest cheesemakers like Ruth and Rachel even more!


No more sniff, sniff, hope for the best

February 6, 2009

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I’m not big on cutesy clutter like wine charms and corncob holders but I really like these reusable ceramic cheese signs. We love cheese and are very adventurous but invariably, there is a guest who is afraid of bold cheeses or, almost as often, once the wine starts flowing, I forget the proper name for a particularly new or interesting cheese.

I bought a set of four or five a couple of years ago (I saw the same package at Kitchen Stuff Plus recently for about $10) and use them when we have parties to identify each item on the cheese board. The set comes with a dry erase marker so that you can reuse the signs easily. I just pop them in the cutlery holder and run them through the dishwasher for clean up.

Recently I realized that I could use these little signs to identify items on a buffet table and that they’d be especially useful for calling out dishes that contain allergens like nuts or eggs that my guests might need to avoid.


The burrata trend heats up

December 23, 2008

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Last holiday season when I wanted a sample of burrata cheese for a trends segment on Canada AM, I was left high and dry. You see, our taping date didn’t coincide with the jet schedule from Apulia, Italy that brought this luxuriously creamy, fresh cheese to Canada only on the second and fourth Friday of each month.

Love for this fresh, creamy-centred cheese and its cousin mozzarella is spreading across the globe in the form of restaurants. In Rome, Obika is the temple where Italian burrata worshippers gather and now they have a North American outlet in NYC, while in LA, Pizzeria Mozza is the place for lovers of this cheese to indulge. Similar concepts have recently opened in Melbourne, Australia, Bathesda, Maryland, Chicago, Illinois and soon in South Beach, Florida.

Thankfully, this holiday season, Canadians won’t have to face the devastating inconvenience of waiting for a plane to arrive or take off so that we can track down a few morsels of  this cheese because there is now a Canadian-made version of Burrata-style cheese that is shipped to specialty stores nationwide every single day!

Although the domestic version isn’t wrapped in a fresh asphodel leaf like its imported Italian cousin pictured above, it is made with fresh buffalo milk mozzarella and filled with warm curds and cream just like the original.

So, if you’re looking for a way to make your holiday cheese tray special, think about serving burrata!


WTF Wednesdays

February 27, 2008

Cheese and champagneAs regular readers here know, I recently slimmed down by 15 pounds and pledged to lose six additional pounds before spring. Although I plan to maintain my new shape, I also realize that mental health is as important as physical well-being and certainly much more important than physical beauty. (Although if I were to wrangle a tri-fecta of fabulousness by achieving all three qualities of physical health, mental health and gorgeousness, I’d see no shame in the accomplishment!)

February is a cold and dreary month here in central Canada and, to be honest, the lack of sunshine can lead to vitamin D deficiencies that aren’t good for a girl’s mood. Not good at all. Just last Wednesday I found myself feeling a little blue and with an overwhelming urge for cheese and champagne (bubbles make me happy), so I wasted no time at all and laid out a spread of yummy cheese and popped a cork of Lanson. Immediately I felt a wave of good feelings!

A moment or two later when my chef sprocket hubby came into the room (the pop of a champagne cork is like a dog whistle for that man!) I was happier still to welcome him to WTF Wednesday, my impromptu party thrown for no reason than to spread happiness.

So if you feel your new year’s resolve slipping away as the days in 2008 accumulate, take a break. We all deserve a WTF Wednesday. Just be sure it isn’t followed by a Debauchery Thursday and you’ll be just fine!