Some say freezing cheese is sacrilege, some think it's only logical. On what side do you fall? And from a cheese professional's point of view, what's the reasoning for taking or not
taking the icy plunge?
I'm pretty definitive on the issue: Don't freeze your cheese! But, as in most cheese matters, all rules are up to interpretation.
So perhaps I should restate. Don't freeze fine cheese. Hand-crafted cheeses are delicate, and very simply said, they'll deteriorate in the freezer. In a freezer, ice crystals form within the paste of the cheese, and when cheese defrosts, the molecular structure breaks down, transforming a perfectly fine wedge into a mealy, more crumbly and dry version of its former self. Cheeses with fissures, holes, or cracks are especially susceptible to freezer damage.
Fresh cheeses are more sensitive to freezing than aged cheeses; with higher moisture content comes an even more fragile texture. Picture a light, fluffy triple creme: a freezer would annihilate its delicate, curdy paste, turning it crystalline and then weepy after a defrost.
The argument for freezing aged cheeses like parm and cheddar might seem logical because they're more durable in the first place, and so could withstand being frozen. But since most aged cheeses can virtually last for eons in your refrigerator when stored properly, why bother with the freezer, which can do more harm than good?
Even with the knowledge of these deterrents, cheese freezers will live on. The only type of cheese that justifies being frozen is of the block variety, like a grocery store block cheddar, monterey jack, or provolone. These are industrial cheeses, highly processed and meant to be durable. By nature, they're not delicate and sensitive to temperature changes that can drastically alter their integrity. But take note: when defrosted, they'll be best used as melters, which will mask any potential alteration to texture from their frozen stint. Bring on the nachos!
Related: From the Files: Recipes that Freeze Well
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Image: flickr user Paul Goyette licensed under Creative Commons)