The Truth About Whole Cheese
Cheese is a living, breathing organism. Imported cheese is often sealed in plastic when it travels to the U.S. to help prevent mold growth but mold should be expected when dealing with natural cheese.
The first thing to do when you get a cheese wrapped in plastic or cryovac is to let it breathe for several hours. A packaged cheese, especially a vacuum-sealed one, is like a person being in prison and therefore needs to breathe fresh air in order to return to its natural state.
Once you are ready to eat the cheese, cut a piece from the wheel and make sure to cut off the rind on all three sides. If you are making a cheese tray, for aesthetic purposes you may want to leave the rind on for color or contrast, but be sure not to eat the rind. This is the part of the cheese that may have an anti-molding agent on it or, at least, has been handled by someone who may not have been wearing gloves. Certain soft-ripened cheeses are customarily consumed with the rind but they are in the minority. Each wheel of cheese has its own identity and may not always be exactly the same. For example, if the coloring differs slightly this does not mean the cheese is bad. Most companies today make cheese industrially with machines allowing for overall uniformity in appearance.
The ideal temperature for storing cheese is 42-50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The need for humidity in the refrigerator varies with the variety of cheeses. The more humid the climate in the refrigerator, the more friendly it will be to molds. White rinds, bloomy rinds and blue cheeses need more humidity and the careful encouragement of their molds. Storing these cheeses in a place closer to the door places them in a slightly warmer temperature that is more comfortable for the molds. Cheeses with washed rinds require more humidity. Other rinds need air circulation and a less humid environment. However, they should not have so much air circulation that their surfaces dry out, as can happen if they're placed too close to the blowers. Cold will retard aging to some degree so fresh cheeses are best keep in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Separate cheeses with white mold rinds or blue veining from others when possible to avoid mold growth.