Cheese bits: Facts and tips about cheese

Cheese is popular with Canadians in every category of dining, from snacks and appetizers to desserts and even drinks. Here are a few facts about it:

Some cheeses are ripened from the outside in ("surface-ripened") and some from the inside out (interior-ripened).

Some cheeses are cooked and others are not.

"Medium" cheese has been aged four to nine months, "aged" cheese from 10 months to one year, "extra aged" from two to seven years.

"Bloomy rind" is the name for the white, edible rind of cheeses such as brie and Camembert.

"Processed" describes a cheese made from a blend of similar cheeses, such as various cheddars, which have been heated and melted together.

"Curdling" is the separation of the liquids (whey) from the solids (curds) by addition of the fermenting agent. All cheeses undergo this initial step.

"Washed rind" refers to the process by which the rinds of certain cheeses are washed periodically during ripening, resulting in a coppery or beige coloured rind.

Most cheeses should be tightly wrapped and stored in a crisper or on the lower shelves of a refrigerator, away from other smelly food. Plastic wrap provides the tightest seal to protect from moisture loss, odours and possibly mould. Bocconcini and feta should be stored in the brine it was sold in or in lightly salted water.

If whitish spots of mould appear on cheese, cut off at least 1 cm (1/2 inch) around the affected part. Wrap it in new plastic wrap and eat it as soon as possible.

All cheeses can be frozen, but this can affect their texture and character, so thawed cheeses are best used for cooking. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap and place cheese in an airtight freezer bag. Let cool before freezing. Allow frozen cheese to thaw slowly in the refrigerator, which helps it regain the moisture lost while frozen.

Bring cheeses to room temperature by taking them out of the refrigerator a maximum of one hour before serving.

Sources: Canadian Dairy Farmers and Canadian Dairy Information Centre.