Ready or Not #109: Cheese

Make your own cheese sticks.

Last week we talked about buying and storing deli-meat and I promised you that I would tell you what I do when I buy my big blocks of cheese and bags of mixed vegetables.  So let’s talk cheese.

My family likes cheese – all kinds of cheese.  As a matter of fact, at Christmas time, Santa Claus leaves different kinds of cheese for us instead of candy – it’s a wonderful thing.  My mom used to cut off slices of cheese for our school lunches and I loved it.

String cheese was one of the first commercially packaged grab-and-go cheeses, but cheese manufactures have come a long way.  I just got back from the grocery store.  I am still laughing because of what I saw on the shelves:  nicely cut up and packaged – at a very expensive price — exactly what I was going to tell you to do.  After seeing it, I feel even more compelled to tell you how to prepare your cheese for everyday use and save you money.

I buy a big five-pound block of two or three different types of cheeses (my favorite is mild cheddar, mozzarella and Colby jack).  Then I slice off a ½ inch slice, lay it down and slice it into four equal strips.  I continue doing this until the entire chunk of cheese is completely cut up.  I set it aside and start on the other flavored cheese and do the exact same thing.  Then depending on if I have two or three flavors, I start to package them together in groups of three strips – two Colby jack and one mozzarella or two mild cheddar and one Colby jack.  Mix it up and do whatever combination you like.

As far as packaging them I just line them all up into a line and roll them up in some plastic wrap.  I then put them in an empty plastic gallon container and put them in the fridge.  I like to take a roll to work to snack on because it is very satisfying.  I also grab a set to cut up in my salad.  If I want to shred some cheese for scrambled eggs or another dish, I just take one stick out of the three and grate it really quickly and it is just the right amount.

I have also seen packages of crumbled cheese sitting on the shelves – go figure.  If you want to crumbled cheese, but you don’t want to pay the high price at the grocery store, I have an easy solution.  Freeze it.  That’s right, all you have to do is to stick your mild or sharp cheddar cheeses into the freezer and freeze it.  Then let it thaw in the fridge and when you go to cut it or grate it, you will find that it will be very crumbly.  Not all cheddar cheeses will crumble.  It has something to do with the moisture content. But most will.

Freezing will not change the taste of the cheese and it is a really good way to preserve it.  You can also make hard cheeses last longer by covering them in several layers of wax, but I don’t think that most of us will do that.  But it is an option.

And yes, tomorrow I will be eating cheese.  I’ll talk about fresh vegetables next week.

Bon Appetit.

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