Author Topic: Block Parmesan / Parmigiano-Reggiano, how long does it keep, how best to store?  (Read 21482 times)

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Offline PapaJon

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I'm looking at picking up some good quality Parmesan cheese or some Parmigiano-Reggiano, but I'm hesitant as I do not know what the best way to store it is.  My Costco has some for $10.49/lb, but if I buy it there I'm sure it would be more than I could use in a month.  Should I try Whole foods or some place I can buy smaller qty?

Can any experts chime in on how best to handle/store it so that it stays the freshest and keeps the longest?

TIA

P.S. Sorry for the phone camera rotate fail
Jon


Offline BrickStoneOven

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I'm not an expert but I have had mine for about 2 months with no signs of mold or anything. I just put all the hard cheese in a zip lock bag, squeeze out as much air as possible and close the bag. The Grana from costco is pretty good as well and thats been in the frig for even longer. That same amount at WF is going to cost a lot more.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2011, 09:44:21 PM by BrickStoneOven »

Offline Mmmph

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I wrap it as tightly as I can with cling wrap, then into a ziplock bag, squeezing out the air like BrickStoneOven mentioned.

Months in the fridge is no prob with these dry aged cheeses.
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Offline dmaxdmax

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When we get the Kirkland cheese I cut a chunk off the pointy end, slicing clean through the shrink-wrap.  This leaves just one small face of the "stock" exposed while we use the small chunk until it's gone.  Wrap the stock in saran wrap and toss both in a ziploc bag.  It will keep a loooooong time.
Dave
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Offline PapaJon

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Thanks for the tips and feedback.  I have also done some general Googleing as well and there does not seem to be a consensus for the correct way to store it.  The two main schools of thought are; 1) tightly plastic wrap, and 2) wrap with parchment/baking paper to let it breath.  As you can see from the quotes/links below the advice given is not consistent.  

I'm guessing knowledge from experience (such as posted above) is a good alternative to solid science, but if any experts care to pitch in maybe we can stick a fork in it and call it done.


Whole Foods Link
Storing Parmigiano Reggiano

Wedges: Buy pieces that will last you just a week or two. Exposure to air causes the cheese to dry out and lose flavor, so keep it tightly wrapped in parchment paper or aluminum foil. Store in the cheese or veggie drawer of your refrigerator (40°F); freezing destroys its subtle nuances.

Grated: For maximum flavor and aroma, grate your own Parmigiano Reggiano directly onto food or buy it already grated as close as possible to when you plan to use it. Store pre-grated cheese in the refrigerator in a zip bag with all air squeezed out.


http://international.parmigiano-reggiano.it

How to store non vacuum-packed Parmigiano-Reggiano (or after opening the vacuum pack)
When buying a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano freshly cut or after opening the vacuum pack, the cheese must be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature between 4 and 8 Cē.
Parmigiano-Reggiano maintains its organoleptic characteristics:
a) if it is stored at the right humidity level (in ventilated refrigerators, cheese tends to dry);
b) if it is stored separately from other food (the fatty part of cheese tends to absorb other smells present in the fridge).

For example, it should be kept in appropriate glass or plastic containers. Another very practical solution is wrapping it in food-grade plastic film.

In this way, Parmigiano-Reggiano can be stored for a limited period of time, whilst checking its preservation conditions.

Cheese should never be frozen; however, it is possible to freeze grated Parmigiano-Reggiano



http://www.allbusiness.com
What is the best way to store Parmigiano- Reggiano?

With just 181 milligrams of sodium per ounce, Parmigiano-Reggiano contains less sodium than domestic Parmesan and Romano types. The cheese's low sodium level makes it more susceptible to mold growth, especially if grated and held at room temperature. This is because sodium and dryness retard mold growth. When the cheese is grated and left out of refrigeration, there is more surface area exposed and the cheese may develop mold spores that will bloom or create a blue cheese flavor in the normally sweet Parmigiano-Reggiano.

To deter any off flavors, either grate Parmigiano-Reggiano and refrigerate or grate and keep it at room temperature. These two methods should never be mixed. Exposing the grated cheese to a combination of cold and then room temperatures can create an off acetone-like aroma in the cheese. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano held at room temperature should be sold in one to two days maximum. Advise customers to keep their grated Parmigiano-Reggiano in a plastic zip-style bag from which all air has been squeezed out. The cheese should be stored in the warmest part of the refrigerator and should not be frozen.

It is equally important to follow proper storage procedures for nongrated wedges of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Once the wheel is cut, the cheese becomes susceptible to oxidation. This causes the cheese to become dried out, robbing it of flavor and aroma. To minimize flavor loss, keep wedges refrigerated and tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. Rewrap in new plastic after each use.



Formaticum Cheese Paper
Do not wrap cheese in conventional non-porous materials. Cheese needs to breathe

The delicate flavor balance achieved by the cheesemaker requires oxygen exchange and storage at the proper humidity. Non-porous materials suffocate cheese, causing the dreaded ammonia flavor (particularly in soft cheeses). Non-porous materials also trap too much moisture within, accelerating the growth of invasive surface molds.
Buy only what you will eat within the next week (with a few exceptions)

A good exception to this rule is Parmigiano-Reggiano or other hard, aged cheeses such as aged Gouda will last as well. When wrapped in Formaticum Cheese Paper, these cheeses will store well for weeks.
Jon

Offline scott123

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First of all, I don't know what those folks at Formaticum are smoking, but Parmigiano-Reggiano (PR) should NEVER be stored in paper.  Generally speaking, PR is at it's best when you first buy it.  It's a little bit creamy, bursting with flavor and relatively easy to grate. Some might feel differently, but, for me, that's the peak. It really depends on how long it's been in the case for, but I think you can store it for a week in just about anything and it'll still be top notch.  Beyond that, plastic wrap should buy you a second week.   Plastic is air permeable and air is the enemy of PR- air dries it out and it loses much of it's flavor and becomes almost impossible to grate.  The thicker the plastic, the less air permeability you get, so shrink wrap should buy you more time, but I don't think it will buy you more than a month.

I use PR in lasagna and meatballs, which I don't make often- maybe once every three months.  My source for PR doesn't always have it available, and, when they do, the chunks often have rind on two sides. Because of this, when I see a chunk with rind on only one side, I buy it, even if I'm two months away from baking with it. I don't like spending 12.99/lb. on PR and having it dry out as hard as a rock, so I've come up with a method that gives me two month old PR that tastes as good and grates as easily as the day I buy it.

Glass.  It's really difficult getting a hunk of PR into a glass jar, but the glass blocks out air for a very long time. I use Pecorino Romano at an even slower rate- I grate about two tablespoons a year, so I store that in glass as well.  I just checked one of my jars in the fridge a few minutes ago that's been in there at least 3 months- flawless. Glass jar, twist metal lid with a rubberized seal.  Old PB jars seem to do the trick.

PR stored in glass will tend to grow mold, though.  One thing to be aware of is that PR, as it's produced, grows mold- mold that the cheesemaker wipes off with a damp cloth.  I feel a little better scraping a fraction of an inch than I do wiping, but I still feel that the mold is fairly benign.  I have noticed, though, that if you really let the mold go crazy, it will penetrate into the cheese, and you'll find yourself hacking large chunks off of it. I've taken steps to avoid mold, and, although the results are still preliminary, salting the cheese before it goes into the container looks promising.  Just a light sprinkle. It doesn't seem like the cheese absorbs the salt- and it can wiped off prior to grating.

I think if I really wanted to guarantee the longest possible life for my PR, I might get my hands on food grade hydrogen peroxide and sterilize both the cheese and the jar- like they do for juice boxes. But for now, a sprinkling of salt seems to buy me some time.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2011, 10:29:33 AM by scott123 »

Offline Jet_deck

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Although the expert instructions posted above from the cheese makers all warn against freezing the PR, I do remember a half-wheel of cheese warming up in front of a 700* oven in Atlanta.  If the cheese had been refridgerated it probably wouldn't require such an agressive reconstitution.  Look just in front of the guys left hand.  I am in no way suggesting that it was frozen or even that it was PR; but I could.  Just sayin'

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,12718.msg122713.html#msg122713
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Offline PapaJon

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I've taken steps to avoid mold, and, although the results are still preliminary, salting the cheese before it goes into the container looks promising.  Just a light sprinkle. It doesn't seem like the cheese absorbs the salt- and it can wiped off prior to grating.

I think if I really wanted to guarantee the longest possible life for my PR, I might get my hands on food grade hydrogen peroxide and sterilize both the cheese and the jar- like they do for juice boxes. But for now, a sprinkling of salt seems to buy me some time.

Scott, thanks for the input, and excellent suggestion with the glass.  A couple questions on your comments if you don't mind.
Salt to prevent mold.  I haven't looked into this and assume you are right, but I thought that salt draws out moisture as well.  Wouldn't this also dry up the PR, or is this just a choice between the lesser of two evils?

Food grade Hydrogen Peroxide.  I wasn't aware there was such a thing (Interesting FDA link).  That aside, if you did have "food grade" HP how would you use it on the cheese? Wipe it?  I homebrew as well and while homebrewers use some chemicals such as Starsan to sanitize there equipment, and I could see you doing this to the jar, I really doubt you'd need to go so far as to sterilize the jar (sterilize != sanitize), and a little unsure how you could actually sterilize or sanitize a cheese. 

Although the expert instructions posted above from the cheese makers all warn against freezing the PR, I do remember a half-wheel of cheese warming up in front of a 700* oven in Atlanta.  If the cheese had been refridgerated it probably wouldn't require such an agressive reconstitution.  Look just in front of the guys left hand.  I am in no way suggesting that it was frozen or even that it was PR; but I could.  Just sayin

Thats funny, I don't think I would have noticed that without it being pointed out.
Jon

Offline Mick.Chicago

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Its funny, a lot of cheese is left to the elements for years, in caves and cellars, just pop it in the fridge, if it gets a tough edge, cut it off, you'll be fine.

Now when you're buying a whole wheel, then you can worry.

Offline scott123

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Scott, thanks for the input, and excellent suggestion with the glass.  A couple questions on your comments if you don't mind.
Salt to prevent mold.  I haven't looked into this and assume you are right, but I thought that salt draws out moisture as well.  Wouldn't this also dry up the PR, or is this just a choice between the lesser of two evils?

Food grade Hydrogen Peroxide.  I wasn't aware there was such a thing (Interesting FDA link).  That aside, if you did have "food grade" HP how would you use it on the cheese? Wipe it?  I homebrew as well and while homebrewers use some chemicals such as Starsan to sanitize there equipment, and I could see you doing this to the jar, I really doubt you'd need to go so far as to sterilize the jar (sterilize != sanitize), and a little unsure how you could actually sterilize or sanitize a cheese.  
Thats funny, I don't think I would have noticed that without it being pointed out.


Did I say sterilize? I meant sanitize  ;D And no, you can't sanitize cheese, but with the disinfecting properties of the hydrogen peroxide, you should be able to kill off a lot of surface nasties.  And I would wipe it on with a paper towel.

I looked up Starsan and, while it might work well for homebrewing, I'm not completely buying into the flavorless claim.  It's an acid and all acids have a tangy taste.  Hydrogen peroxide, on the other hand, breaks down into water and oxygen.

I think if I packed the cheese in salt, it would draw a tremendous amount of moisture out of it, but a very light sprinkling doesn't dry the cheese out. I haven't tried it yet, but I think wiping the cheese with a salt solution might work as well.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2011, 06:46:16 PM by scott123 »


Offline Tscarborough

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Buy small quantities, problem solved.

Offline PapaJon

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Buy small quantities, problem solved.
::)
Not quite sure if this eureka moment belongs in the same league as Doc's flux capacitor, or Newton's theory of gravity, but thanks for playing.
Jon

Offline dmaxdmax

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Costco has their parm shrink-wrapped in the cooler with sell-by dates that are months ahead.  We buy a wedge 4-8 times a year and in 10 years haven't felt the need to return a single one.  (yes, I've returned food)

I think Tscarborough has it backward; Don't buy less, eat more!   ;)
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Offline pizzablogger

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First of all, I don't know what those folks at Formaticum are smoking, but Parmigiano-Reggiano (PR) should NEVER be stored in paper.  

Generally speaking, PR is at it's best when you first buy it.

Scott, I store my Parmigiano-Reggiano by wrapping wax paper loosely around it and then put that into a Ziplock bag, making sure to get as much air out as possible. It generally keeps for up to a week before I notice a loss of peak flavor. So wrapping in paper can work...but then again a wedge never lasts longer than a week (at most) in my house.

Cheese freshness is not dependent on proximity to a person buying it....it is how recently was the wedge you are buying cut from the wheel.  I call my Whole Foods cheese guy about twice a week to get a bead on when they are getting ready to open a new wheel to portion individual wedges for selling. I try to buy it the day a wheel is broken....and fortunate enough to get it right off the wheel at times. As soon as that wheel is opened, time starts ticking down on a cheese.

Having a good cheese counter nearby where whole wheels are purchased and divided on a regular basis is a fortunate thing indeed...and I make a point to stay in good graces with the cheese mongerer!

BTW, if my ashes were entombed in a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano when my days here end, that would be just about okay by me. :)
« Last Edit: March 04, 2011, 02:15:38 PM by pizzablogger »
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Offline Tscarborough

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I have an excellent local cheese monger, so it is always fresh, and I buy what I need for a week at a time. 

http://www.antonellischeese.com/

That said, the local supermarket will whack off any size you want, as a rule.

Offline pizzablogger

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That said, the local supermarket will whack off any size you want, as a rule.

At least in my area, many local supermarkets I have been into do not carry Parmigiano-Reggiano. They may have "Parmesan" which is often an Argentinian Reggianito and not Italian at all (albiet generally of good quality).

IMO, this is one case when there really is no substitute for the real deal.
"It's Baltimore, gentlemen, the gods will not save you." --Burrell

Offline pizzablogger

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BTW Tscar......I just noticed you live in the Austin, Texas area.

You lucky bahstage  :)  That is one area with some really excellent and diverse food and dining options!  8)
"It's Baltimore, gentlemen, the gods will not save you." --Burrell

Offline kiwipete

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Cut off what you need and vacuum seal the rest and keep it in the fridge.

Home style vacuum sealers are cheap enough..

Cheers

Peter

Offline Tscarborough

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I asked the cheese monger about it and he said that hard cheese is the only kind that should be wrapped in plastic for storage.  Other types should be wrapped tightly in paper, and will not last as long as the hard cheeses, since they contain enough moisture to continue to age.

Offline sweedld

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The Grana cheeses are almost incapable of molding in refrigerated storage. Drying out and loss of flavor are much more likely. I prefer the taste of younger Parma-Reggiano to the 18 month and 24 month old cheeses. I frequently store it plastic wrapped or ziploc bagged with no loss of flavor or grating ease for 2 months. Low humidity storage environments may cause aged cheeses to dry out even when plastic wrapped.