Whoever said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,"
must have been a deli owner. Think about it. With all that cheese
in those cases, have you ever seen one in a lovely shade of green?
Never. In fact, all I know about the proper care and handling of
cheese I learned from a deli owner.
He introduced me to the two archenemies of cheese: air and bacteria.
OUNCE OF PREVENTION:
Limit exposure to air and you can greatly extend the useful life
of any type of cheese. Make sure that you keep hard cheeses like
cheddar and Monterey Jack wrapped tightly with plastic wrap.
Each time you open it, reseal as tightly and completely as possible.
That takes care of the air problem.
I know that it takes bacteria to make cheese in the first place,
but that is much different from the kind of bacteria on your hands.
So the second rule of mold prevention is don't touch the cheese.
Even when you wash your hands well, some amount of bacteria remains,
and while it's not at all harmful to you or the cheese, that's what
gets the green thing going. Either wear food-preparation gloves or
make sure the plastic is always creating a barrier between your hands
and the portion of the cheese that's going back into the refrigerator.
POUND OF CURE: For cheese that has already turned, there are a couple
of remedies. You can actually wipe the mold away with a clean cloth
you've dipped into white vinegar. Not the most pleasant job, but it does work in saving the cheese.
Another useful technique is to simply cut away the moldy parts.
Once all the green is gone, treat this as you would a new block
of cheese by following the two rules above.
I'll close today's column with a bonus tip that will at least double
the shelf life of cottage cheese. Once opened, stir in a pinch of salt.
That retards the growth of bacteria without affecting the taste.
Apply the lid tightly to the unused portion and then store it upside
down in the refrigerator. This will seal out the air.