There exists a plethora of cheese worldwide. Being acquainted with at least 8 familiar cheese and their shelf life is not a bad start.
What is Cheese?
Cheese can be described as the curd or semi-solid substance which forms when milk coagulates.
Cheese production has been in existence for thousands of years. Coagulation or curdling occurs naturally when milk is left in the open, or upon the addition of acid or rennin.
Cheese making varies from country to country. There are hundreds of cheese based on the type of milk used, climate, production technique, texture, aging period and size.
Nutritional Component of Cheese
Cheese consumption is appropriate when done in moderation. Cheese is considered a whole food as it contains most of the vital nutrients.
It is a rich source of calcium, proteins, zinc, vitamins A, B12, phosphorous and fats. Traces of sodium are also found in cheese.
The presence of lactose makes it unfavorable for people with lactose intolerance. As a fermented food item, cheese can help in gut health.
As with other foods, exercise reasonable restraint as too much of anything has consequences.
8 Types of Cheese
Whereas this post may not contain an exhaustive list of the thousands of cheese from numerous countries, here are 8 of the most familiar cheese and their shelf life you must have come across.
Cheddar cheese was traditionally made in Cheddar village of Somerset, England.
With time, other regions started to produce their own version, hence you can find cheddar in many other countries.
Cheddar is made from pasteurized cow’s milk. Curing and aging takes anywhere between 9 months to 2 years.
The more cheddar is left to mature, the sharper the taste. It is categorized as a hard cheese.
Cheddar has a characteristic white to pale yellow hue, although more often than not, you will find cheddar with a deep yellow-orange color.
Shelf life of cheddar
Hard cheese like cheddar have a longer shelf life than their softer counterparts. You may wonder how a cured, fermented food item like cheese could have a shelf life. It does! This is due to it being a dairy product.
Packaged cheddar comes with a sell by and a best by date. Unopened cheddar has a shelf life of up to 8 months past its best by date, when stored in the freezer. Opened cheddar has a shorter shelf life – approximately 1.5 months.
Always store cheese in the refrigerator after opening.
Synonymous with Italy, mozzarella is made from pasteurized milk of either cow or water buffalo. In fact, the original production in Italy utilized water buffalo’s milk. However, the availability of cow’s milk made it easier to be used.
Mozzarella is categorized as a fresh cheese since it is not aged. It is best eaten within a few hours upon making.
Alternatively, you will find it packed in a salt brine which preserves its shelf life. Mozzarella is rind less, has a creamy, mild, milky flavor with a white hue.
Mozzarella is popular in pizza dishes due to its stringy texture. You can also use it on salads, lasagna or as a sandwich filling.
Shelf life of mozzarella
Due to its wet, curd-like texture, mozzarella has a fairly short shelf life. Refrigerate any leftovers. Unopened mozzarella lasts up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. For long-term storage, freeze unused mozzarella.
Other manufactures will cure mozzarella by smoking. This prolongs its shelf life. Unopened smoked type can last up to 1 month in the refrigerator.
Another popular Italian cheese, parmesan is also known as Parmigiano Reggiano. Its production extended beyond Italy, hence nowadays you will find parmesan made by other countries.
Unlike cheddar and mozzarella, Parmesan is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. Another hard cheese, parmesan has a grainy, dense texture with a fruity, savory taste.
Grated parmesan works well on pasta dishes, soups, casseroles and savory roasted meats. You can also enjoy parmesan blocks as a snack.
Shelf life of parmesan
Parmesan is usually in block or grated form. Opened blocks can last up to 1.5 months in the refrigerator or up to 2 years in the freezer. If you maintain freezing temperatures of 0°, the cheese will last much longer. Grated parmesan is best stored in the refrigerator and will last up to 1 year.
The Mediterranean region is known for many things – feta cheese being one of them.
Specifically made in Greece, feta is undoubtedly one of the most common cheese, not only in Mediterranean cuisine but also in many western countries.
It is made from either goat or sheep’s milk, both pasteurized and unpasteurized. Feta is a soft cheese, usually sold fresh or matured for a few months and brined.
Due to brining, feta has a full flavor with a tangy, salty taste. It has a creamy, crumbly texture, has holes and is rind less.
Use feta chunks on salads or mix with roasted vegetables and nuts. Its tangy flavor also makes it a perfect combination to beer and wine.
Shelf life of feta
Feta, whether in brine or crumbs, ought to be refrigerated always. Opened packages of feta in brine can last up to 6 months in the freezer or 1.5 months in refrigerator.
On the other hand, fresh feta crumbs have a shorter shelf life and should be used within 1 week in the refrigerator. Frozen feta crumbs keep well for up to 6 months.
Cottage cheese is a fairly easy one to make, even from the comfort of your home. The United Kingdom and United States of America are popular for mass production of cottage cheese. It is made from cow’s milk.
The curd is normally washed severally to eradicate the acidic flavor from the acids used. This causes cottage cheese to have a mild, sweet taste. It also has a creamy, lumpy, soft texture without rind.
As such, cottage cheese is sold in containers or pots and can pass off as Greek yoghurt or cream. Cottage cheese works well with fruits, diverse salads or on toast.
Shelf life of cottage cheese
Avoid buying too many pots of cottage cheese. From this list of 8 familiar cheese and their shelf life, cottage cheese has the shortest shelf life.
Refrigerate any opened containers. Never leave cottage cheese at room temperature for an extended period.
When well refrigerated, opened cottage cheese will stretch up to 10 days after the best by date. Unopened cans are best frozen and can go up to 3 months while in good quality.
Blue cheese is a general term for any cheese that has been inoculated with cultures of Penicillium mold. The end product has veins of mold which have a blue, grey, black or green hue.
Many countries around the world have their own unique version of blue cheese. It is made from cow, goat or sheep’s milk, which can either be pasteurized or unpasteurized.
Examples include: Roquefort from France, Stilton from England, Gorgonzola from Italy as well as Danish blue cheese.
Blue cheese has a sharp, tangy and salty taste, but the flavor depends on location of production and climate. The added mold gives it a unique aroma.
Pair blue cheese with crackers, tangy fruits or crumble it on top of salads, yoghurt, dips, dressings or slice it on roasted meat steaks.
Shelf life of blue cheese
Like other dairy products, blue cheese does go bad. Refrigerate or freeze blue cheese wedges or crumbs for optimal shelf life. Well refrigerated blue cheese, whether opened or unopened, lasts up to 2 months or 6 months in the freezer, under a constant temperature of 0°.
Cheese are well-known for being named after their place of origin. This is the case with camembert, which originates from a small village called Camembert which is in Normandy, France.
The original camembert was made from raw milk. Nowadays, it is produced from both raw and pasteurized milk.
When matured, camembert has a buttery flavor with a soft, runny texture. It has an edible, white rind caused by the addition of a white fungus.
Use camembert creatively – pair it with wine, melt it on pasta or potato dishes, bake it and serve with crackers or fruits.
Shelf life of camembert
Since it’s a soft cheese, camembert has a short shelf life. Keep it refrigerated or frozen. Camembert blocks can stretch up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Well frozen pieces will maintain good quality for up to 6 months.
Highly popular in the United States, cream cheese is made from unskimmed milk, where the cream is still intact, hence the name cream cheese.
It is a fresh cheese, hence has a short shelf life. The addition of lactic acid and stabilizers like guar gum give it firmness.
However, cream cheese has a spreadable, creamy texture. Cream cheese gives off a mild, sweet flavor. Some variations have spices, food flavoring or herbs additions.
It is popularly used in cheesecake recipes, cake frostings, dessert toppings as well as a thickening agent in soups, casseroles or stews.
Shelf life of cream cheese
You can safely use cream cheese beyond its best by date, as long as optimal storage conditions are observed. Refrigerate or freeze cream cheese. Unopened cans fortified in foil paper last longer – up to 1 month in the refrigerator and 2 months in the freezer.
5 Simple Cheese Storage Tips
Proper storage conditions go a long way in capitalizing on the shelf life of food items. When it comes to cheese storage, do the following:
- Chop big blocks of hard cheese into smaller portions. Freeze each portion separately.
- Do not share cutting utensils on soft, fresh cheese, for instance, knives that have been used on meat. This can contaminate the cheese hence cause spoilage.
- Avoid bulk buying. This guarantees that you only use good, fresh quality cheese all the time.
- Rewrap cheese in fresh plastic bags or paper after each use to prevent contamination.
- The vegetable crisper of the refrigerator works well for cheese storage. This is due to the stable and cool temperature.
Does Cheese go bad?
Yes, all dairy products expire. You can identify spoiled cheese in the following ways:
- Water pockets due to separation indicate decay. Discard such cheese immediately.
- Mold growth is a clear indicator of rot. When it comes to cheese, mold growth may not appear on the entire block. As such, you can cut off the moldy part and still remain with usable portion.
- Foul smell – rule out the normal odor of the cheese. Any other smell indicates spoilage.
- Slimy texture on soft, fresh or semi-soft cheese signifies expiration. Do away with such.
- Discoloration – black, pink, brown, green patches on cheese other than blue cheese, which has color. White, pale yellow or creamy cheese with dark patches could indicate spoilage.
- Sour taste- be familiar with how your stocked cheese taste like. As such, any other strange taste is an indicator of expiration.
There are hundreds of different cheese. As such, the listed 8 familiar cheese and their shelf life introduces you to the world of cheese.