Cheese Selection & Care

Cheese making, storing & eating aka. everything you wanted to know about cheese, but were too afraid to ask!

The height of what a cheese can achieve is dictated by the quality of the milk.  When cheese is made by farmers, they start their cheesemaking decisions in the pastures and their breeding programmes, and see the consequences directly in the vat.  

Factors of influence on milk composition, microbial diversity, flavour & colour fall into two categories: individual factors such as the type of animal, the breed, their age, health and stage of lactation, and environmental factors such as location and climate, farming system, animal feed, housing, milking method and whether chemicals and medicines were used.


Rennet is  a mixture of enzymes extracted from the stomachs of young ruminant mammals (calves, lambs or kids) which transforms liquid milk into solid curd, the first step in cheesemaking.  Animal rennet typically comes from the same species of animal as the milk being used for cheese; calf-rennet used to produce cows milk cheese, and so on.

Vegetarian coagulants have been developed as an alternative to animal rennet.  A notable alternative to synthetic coagulants is the use of plant extracts.  Figs, papaya, thistles and cardoons contain enzymes similar, although not identical to, those in animal rennet.  Interestingly, different enzymes lead to different flavours and textures in the cheese.  Many Spanish and Portuguese cheesemakers use plant based coagulants.  

We regularly stock of Sinodun Hill, made using a purified commercial cardoon coagulant, and Brighton Blue, Rachel and Winslade made with a vegetarian coagulant.

Two exceptions are ricotta and paneer, which are coagulated by the combination of heat and acidity from the action of the lactic acid bacteria in the milk, sometimes boosted by the addition of vinegar or citric acid.


When we talk about maturing, we are referring to the ageing and maturing process.  During this time, flavour and texture development take place by creating unique environments of temperature & humidity, and employing treatments (such as washing, brushing, or turning) that combined will ensure its best development and so we can sell each cheese at its best.

Better with age?  Not necessarily.  In fact, excessive age can decrease quality by developing a dry, waxy paste texture, dried out rinds, bitter or salty taste, production of ammonia, excessive & internal mould.  Different cheeses benefit from different age profiles, such as a Brie style cheese like Baron Bigod is typically eaten at 6 weeks, or a traditionally sized Stilton is typically eaten at 16 weeks.

Cheesecare & Storage

A common sense approach to cheese care should be adopted, responding to the cheese you have in front of you, rather than following rigid guidelines.

We sell our cheese wrapped in waxed cheese paper, which achieves the best possible balance between maintaining humidity around the cheese and allowing it to breathe.  Using cling film or foil can cause the cheese to sweat, which will negatively affect the flavour.  We recommend reusing the wax paper to re-cover your cheese and store it in an open container in the fridge.  The container will help prevent the cheese drying out or absorbing other flavours and will slow the growth of mould on the surface.  Be aware that smaller pieces of cheese will dry out more rapidly than larger pieces, so best to buy larger pieces and snaffle small pieces rather than saving them!

If you are buying larger cheeses, you may not have sufficient fridge space, and you would do well do improvise as best you can in these circumstances, perhaps a cool box, cellar or garden shed (in winter).  However, you can store your whole cheese outside of the fridge; it will mature & develop more quickly, but this can produce more rounded flavours.

Whether refrigerated or not, you should check on your cheese regularly to see how it is behaving.  If conditions are not right, the cheese will tell you, it will change.  If it is too warm or damp, it may sweat, feel pappy (unpleasantly soft or watery), gases may develop inside it and it will likely have a considerably stronger smell.

There are an array of factors that affect how long cheese will last.  We sell all our cheeses on the assumption they will be consumed within a week to 10 days.  If you want your cheese to last longer, please ask and we can advise the best choices available.

Cheesemaking is, in short, preserved milk.  By the very nature of its production, it creates lactic acid, which inhibits pathogens and prevents competition from other species (the Jameson effect).  Low refrigeration temperatures therefore, which inhibit the production of lactic acid, has limited utility for the preservation of cheese.

Mesophilic pathogens - Salmonella, Listeria, and Staphylococcus aureus - may be destroyed or at least inhibited by lactic acid.  Food-borne Listeria monocytogenes and some strains of E. coli are psychrotrophic and may still grow, albeit at a reduced rate, at refrigeration temperatures.  Staphylococcus aureus, which causes illness by production of toxins, is unaffected by refrigeration.  Interestingly, toxigenic E coli species die off over time in hard aged cheeses kept at maturation temperature.  

The majority of our cheese has been matured at cellar temperature, between 10 and 14 degrees Celsius and at approximately 90 percent humidity, and remains in these conditions throughout its maturation and packing.

We continue to store the cheese in our shops at the same cellar temperature at which it is matured and positioning in the display cabinet is a key factor. Temperature and humidity are recorded in each environment on a daily basis.

Cheese is shipped to us either using refrigerated hauliers for pallet-sized shipments or using unrefrigerated third-party couriers for smaller shipments.  We ship onward to our e-commerce customers by unrefrigerated third-party couriers.  Packaging in both instances is adapted depending on the outside temperature, utilising ice packs when necessary.

Help my cheese has mould!

Cheese can be intentionally blue - cheeses such as Stilton have added blue mould spores within the body of the cheese.  These moulds help to break the cheese down, and in the process they give it a stronger flavour and distinctive appearance.

Some cheeses unintentionally develop blue mould. Air can penetrate the cheese through the rind, allowing naturally-occurring mould spores to grow.  There is no danger in eating blue which has developed in this way.

Clothbound and natural-rind cheeses have permeable rinds which allow oxygen exchange in and out of the cheese.  And so, if a cheese is bumped or has natural crevasses within it, moulds can sometimes grow inside t hem.  

A brown or grey mould or a ‘bruised’ appearance within the paste is not only unattractive, it is not good to eat.  Whereas, a streak of bright blue through a Cheddar will add complexity and should be celebrated.  As in nature, red is a warning sign, and any bright orange or red should be avoided..

Can I eat the rind?

Some rinds cannot be eaten.  Such as wax and a food grade plastic coating, “plasticote”, used to seal cheeses such as Coolea & Lincolnshire Poacher.  Or clothbound cheddars such as Isle of Mull, the fabric of which will be stripped by your cheesemonger.

But other soft rinds can be eaten and is all a matter of taste.  As a general rule

  • dusty coloured brown and grey moulds tend to be mild and mushroomy or earthy.
  • blue or white moulds very often taste good
  • odd colours could taste bitter, so go carefully.

Help I’m pregnant!  Do I really have to avoid cheese for 9 months?

You’ll be relieved to know that not all cheese is created equal and being pregnant doesn’t need to spoil all your cheese-eating fun, but you do need to be aware of what cheeses are considered safe to eat, those to avoid and why. 

There's a chance that unpasteurised or soft ripened dairy products may contain Listeria bacteria, which can cause the infection listeriosis which can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, or make your newborn baby very unwell.  Soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside have more moisture, which can make it easier for bacteria to grow.

First the bad news, you should avoid:

  • unpasteurised milk - soft ripened goats' cheese
  • pasteurised or unpasteurised mould-ripened soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside - brie, camembert and chèvre
  • pasteurised or unpasteurised soft blue cheeses - danish blue, gorgonzola and roquefort 

Now the good news, you can still enjoy a range of cheeses that include:

  • pasteurised or unpasteurised hard cheeses - cheddar, gruyere and parmesan
  • pasteurised semi-hard cheeses - edam
  • pasteurised soft cheeses- cottage cheese, mozzarella, feta, cream cheese, paneer, ricotta, halloumi, goats' cheese without a white coating on the outside (rind), processed cheese spreads
  • pasteurised or unpasteurised soft or blue cheese that has been cooked until steaming hot

Creating the perfect cheeseboard

It can sometimes be hard to know how much cheese to buy. As a general rule of thumb, we would recommend roughly 100-150 grams per person. 

Add charcuterie, accompaniments such as a chutney or relish, some antipasti - sundried tomatoes or olives - and a selection of cheese biscuits of different shapes & colours.  Add some balance to the board with fresh or dried fruit such as rich dark black grapes, dates, apricots, figs in particular look very attractive, or cucumber for some freshness.

A balanced cheeseboard will combine:

  • 3 -5 cheeses
  • 1 -2 charcuterie
  • 1 -2 antipasti
  • 1 -2 chutney or relish
  • 2 -3 cheese biscuits
  • fruit to balance

Prepare the cheese board before your guests arrive: bring the cheese out of the fridge and, leaving it wrapped to prevent drying out, arrange on a wooden board, slate or marble slab.  Leave to “room-up”, come up to room temperature, before serving - cold cheese will be bland and lacking in flavour. 

Unwrap the cheese a short while before serving, say, as you serve dessert course, and arrange along with all the lovely Little Deli accompaniments.  Don’t forget the cheese knives!



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