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How to Buy Great Cheese

Buying cheese can be intimidating. Cheesemaker Jeremy Little, owner of Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia, explains what to look for.
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Taste It

People are often wary of eating unfamiliar cheeses, especially goat. Go ahead, try a small taste anyway. Most customers who say they don't like goat cheese end up buying ours. If there is no farmers' market or cheese maker in your area, go to the best cheese store around and ask for a sample.

Look at It

For harder cheeses, such as Manchego or Parmigiano-Reggiano, skip those that are cracked or dried out. If that hard cheese has been sitting out on the counter and has a lot of oil on its surface, the condition, while not harmful, may not be optimal, so don't judge the taste based on that one sweaty piece. Ask for a fresh one.

Smell It

For Brie or something similar, sniff it. If you smell a strong scent of ammonia, the cheese might be old. An off-color rind is a more accurate sign of a bad Brie, so look for a white rind.

Care For It

1. Buy an amount of cheese that you can finish in a week.

2. Unwrap soft-ripened cheese, such as Camembert, and let it air out for an hour before eating or refrigerating, then rewrap in its original packaging.

3. Store aged cheese, such as cheddar, in a layer of wax or parchment paper and cover that in plastic wrap. (If you use only plastic, the cheese will taste like plastic; just wax, it'll taste like the fridge.)

4. Hard cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, and blue cheese are best wrapped in parchment, wax paper or tightly sealed plastic.

5. Store cheese in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator.

6. Change the wrapping every few days (if you haven?t already popped the last morsel into your mouth).

Write About It

To remember the good, the bad and the funky, clip the labels and save them in a notebook small enough to fit in your pocket for easy reference on your next trip to the cheese shop. Keep notes on the cheese's appearance (texture, color), smells and tastes.

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