Cheese FAQ

La Fromagerie of London answers some of the most common questions people have about cheese.

HOW SHOULD I STORE MY CHEESE?

Cheese should be stored in the refrigerator, ideally in wax paper. The vegetable drawer is ideal – the fridge is more humid in the low, closed container. For harder cheeses – such as Cheddar, Gruyère, or Parmesan – unwrap it from the wax and place it in a tupperware container with a couple cubes of sugar. The sugar helps to regulate the moisture, and can extend the cheese’s life by up to two months.

HOW SHOULD I EAT MY CHEESE?

The short answer is however you like, but we recommend that, before eating, you first unwrap your cheeses from the wax paper and set them out of the fridge. This will allow them to warm up to room temperature.

When eating a cheese board, try them in ascending order of strength, starting usually with the goat’s cheese (typically the mildest) and finishing with the blue (the most aggressive). The way the flavors naturally overlap encourages the most true and complete taste-sensations, and never leaves milder cheeses eclipsed by bigger, complex-tasting ones. Be sure to ask your cheesemonger the order of strength!

We like our cheese with biscuits.

I’M LACTOSE INTOLERANT; WHAT CHEESES CAN I EAT?

Lactose intolerance occurs when people stop producing the lactase enzyme, which breaks lactose down into other sugars. Most mammals stop producing this enzyme when they are weaned, but humans can continue to produce lactase throughout their lives. Lactose intolerant people cannot drink animal milk in any quantity without experiencing health issues. Generally they can tolerate small quantities of ordinary full-cream milk better than modern low fat milks, which are often boosted with skim milk powder which contains extra lactose.

Contrary to popular belief, cooked pressed cheeses contain little-to-no lactose, as most of it is drained off with the whey. People with lactose intolerance should avoid Ricotta, which is made from whey, as well as fresh cheeses where the whey is only partially drained (Mozzarella and Feta).

Softer cheeses are no good for people with lactose intolerance – but Parimigiano will be fine.

Cheddars aged over six months will be fine. Aged hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano are perfect for the lactose intolerant as its age is two-years plus. Aged cheeses like Comté d’Estive or other hard cheeses aged at least six months (one-year plus is even better) are also fine.

Finally, everything to do with intolerance to cheese has a beginning, and in many cases it is the starter – the yoghurt mixture that starts the curdling process. The sort of starter used can affect the way you react. Finding cheeses that have had a starter made from the previous day’s milk – as opposed to a manufactured one – are much better, as it is a more natural path for the cheesemaking to follow. A farmhouse-made cheese has a much slower and less invasive production process, with less salt used as an additive and preservative. This is yet another reason we champion the small producer with careful monitored processes; not only do the cheeses taste better, they are also better for your health.

I’M HOSTING A DINNER PARTY; HOW MUCH CHEESE SHOULD I BUY?

Obviously a number of factors determine the amount of cheese you should purchase – are you eating only cheese? Will the cheeses be served after multiple courses? Is everyone eating cheese? – however for a cheese board comprised of five cheeses we usually recommend between thirty and fifty grams per cheese per person. A cheesemonger will be able to show you what this looks like and how to divide it. If you want just one cheese, the weight goes up to between 100 and 200 grams per person. The golden number for Raclette and fondue is between 200 and 300 grams per person.

However like most things cheese-related, these are all approximate numbers, and it is perhaps best to discuss with your cheesemonger. We like the phrase ‘little and often.’ It is best not to buy too much, as the leftover cheese will fade in quality. Domestic fridges tend to dehydrate, and cool cellars – where cheese is best stored – are less and less common.

Just four people over for dinner? This might be too much cheese.

SHOULD I EVER FREEZE MY CHEESE?

No. However if you are left with a great deal of a hard cheese (such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyère) and wish to save it for cooking, first grate the cheese and then place it in a sealed plastic bag before freezing.

CAN I EAT THE RIND?

Ask your cheesemonger, but usually the answer is yes. We don’t recommend gnawing the rind of a Gouda, but most rinds are edible. Even the hard ones. Especially the goat ones. It becomes tricky (and this is why you should ask ) with cheeses like the Lincolnshire Poacher Double Barrel, which is coated in a material called ‘plasticote,’ inconspicuously sealing the cheese in the Dutch style. More than anything it is a personal choice. We like to nibble on a bit of the rind to understand the subtler flavors of the pate. One can often taste hints of the cellars and maturing rooms in which the cheeses have been aged.

This is an edited version of the Cheese FAQ by La Fromagerie, republished with permission. All photos  also courtesy of La Fromagerie.

Catch La Fromagerie’s Alessandro Grano at our Dinner Date on September 20!