If a craving for cheese sends you running to the fridge for a hunk of sharp cheddar, don’t be surprised if you notice a bit of mold around the edges. The semi-hard cheese only lasts for a few weeks once opened before its quality begins to decrease and it eventually becomes unpalatable. Storing sharp cheddar cheese right can mean the difference between pairing it with your favorite crackers or tossing it out.
Refrigeration extends the life of sharp cheddar cheese. Stored in refrigerator temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below, inside the unopened manufacturer’s packaging, sharp cheddar keeps for approximately six months. Once opened, wrap the sharp cheddar cheese in parchment or waxed paper and place it in a resealable plastic storage bag, in which it will keep for one month in the refrigerator before it needs to be tossed in the trash.
Freezing sharp cheddar cheese is not a recommended practice. Although freezing cheese keeps it free from bacterial growth and safe to eat for an indefinite amount of time, quality may suffer. Freezing affects the texture of sharp cheddar cheese, often making it dry and crumbly. Although the frozen sharp cheddar cheese is perfectly fine to cook with and eat once thawed, after about six months of freezer storage the texture of the cheddar may be undesirable to work with in recipes that do not require melting.
While the presence of mold on a cheese block may be unappetizing, it does not mean that the sharp cheddar unaffected by the mold is unsafe to eat. Trim the mold from the cheese block with a sharp knife, approximately a quarter to half inch below the mold. Mold on packaged, shredded cheddar cheese is the result of moisture entering the packaging. In this case, the mold is unsafe and the cheese should be thrown away.
Dates stamped on packages of sharp cheddar cheese are not safe dates and do not require the cheese to be thrown away once the date passes. Stamps stating "best if used by" or "sell by" are simply quality dates designed more for the merchant than the consumer and provide a general time frame for when taste and texture of the sharp cheddar cheese may begin to deteriorate.
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images