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I had chunks of various hard cheeses, mostly parmesan, in my refrigerator for varying lengths of time. Some as long as 3+ months.

I've never seen any obvious signs of spoilage and have never been struck down by food poisoning after using said cheese. But my wife is very suspicious when using any food that has been in the fridge for longer than a week.

Is there a generally accepted length of time to keep these types of hard cheese?

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Posting as a comment because it isn't authoritative enough for an answer: My experience jives with yours. I buy big chunks of parmesan that last me 4-6 months. In that time they get hard and dry but never have I had any problems with mold or spoilage. They just have too much salt and no water to spoil. –  Sobachatina Oct 14 '10 at 20:42
    
SO 2year old matured chedder is going to be bad after a week in the fridge - must be a pretty nasty fridge! –  Martin Beckett Feb 4 '11 at 16:39

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Hard cheeses (e.g. parmesan) will typically last several months in the refrigerator once removed from the packaging. The larger the chunk, the longer it will last. If mold forms on the outside, simply cut it off and continue using. There is no reason to throw-away good parmesan.

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@AlberT Wrong. All it means is that it is made from the same recipe, outside of the approved regions of Italy. It could still be just as good as any "Parmigiano Reggiano". –  Daniel Bingham Oct 15 '10 at 13:26
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@Daniel .. eheh it is fun to see that outside Italy, a DOC cheese is simply a "recipe" :) A good cheese, a DOC, DOP or IGP product is not a simple recipe, it is water the cows drink, the food they eat, the air the cheese feels during its dry process, it is a mixture of magic strictly bound to the lands in which it is made ... making a traditional italian food a simple recipe is simply blaspheme. –  AlberT Oct 18 '10 at 8:51
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@AlberT I don't disagree with you about the mixture of magic strictly bound to the lands. Or that Parmesan and Parmigiano Reggiano are different. I simply disagree with your religious devotion and assertion that Parmesan cannot be as good as Parmigiano Reggiano. It can be just as good - though it will have a slightly different flavor. That flavor is no less tasty. And religious devotion to purity never got us anything except witch trials and inquisitions. –  Daniel Bingham Oct 18 '10 at 12:37
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@AlberT: partly this depends on how you use language. I usually buy ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’, but when talking loosely, I call it ‘parmesan’ — just like I call it ‘cheese’ not ‘formaggio’. To many English speakers (especially in the UK, I think) ‘parmesan’ is simply the anglicisation of ‘parmigiano’, and includes both the original DOC and mass-produced/foreign alternatives. –  PLL Feb 5 '11 at 22:21
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@AlberT: Would you think of ‘Londra’ as an antonomasia for ‘London’? Calling parmigiano ‘parmesan’ is very closely analogous, for me and many other UK English speakers, to calling Roma ‘Rome’. The anglicised form ‘parmesan’ is older than modern mass-produced cheese! –  PLL Feb 19 '11 at 5:10

Sources vary. Some say that you have up to six months unopened, 3-4 months opened. Others say as little as a few weeks once opened.

You can tell if your cheese has gone bad by looking for mold. You can tell if it is drying out by the presence of dark spots. (source).

One way to placate your wife is to freeze your hard cheeses. Hard cheeses lose the least of their flavor and texture after freezing, and so are better candidates than other cheeses.

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Freezing! Brilliant idea. I can probably still use them just as well in that condition. Thanks! –  rageear Oct 14 '10 at 20:57
    
Oh my God, freezing a cheese ... what a blaspheme thing! I'd down vote if I'd have enough popularity ... –  AlberT Oct 15 '10 at 10:15

This varies from person to person and refrigerator to refrigerator. It depends on many factors such as:

  • The age of the cheese when you bought it;
  • Whether or not it has been opened (shelf life goes down drastically after opening);
  • The amount of moisture in the cheese;
  • The amount of moisture in your refrigerator;
  • The amount of time exposed to open air (if opened);
  • The quality of the seal (if resealed).

And so on. I can personally attest to both Reggiano and Grana Padano growing mold after only two weeks in my cheese drawer (yes, I have an entire drawer for cheese) after opening it, and at least 3 months unopened. It might last more than 3 months unopened, but cheese never sits around that long unopened at my place...

However, since this question is about hard cheeses, it's useful to know that mold is not a deal-killer. Unlike soft cheeses, where mold can grow roots and spread throughout the interior (even if you can't see it), mold can generally only grow on the surface of a hard cheese. So if you've been keeping it in your refrigerator and start to see mold after a few weeks - don't worry about it! Just cut the mold off and store it again.

I've made opened cheese last up to 2 months this way, by simply cutting off the outer layers that are starting to grow mold. If you're conscientious about it, you won't have to throw anything out.

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Thanks for the detailed response! Great information here. –  rageear Oct 15 '10 at 0:17
    
If I found mold on Reggiano or Grana Padano after 2 weeks I would almost certainly attribute it to something else in my cheese drawer or the cheese draw it's self needing a good clean (it might help to keep harder cheeses separately so the air near by is less damp). It's worth keeping in mind that a clean fridge keeps food much longer than a dirty one. –  vwiggins Oct 18 '10 at 11:39
    
@vwiggins, that's certainly possible, it's not as though any area of the fridge is air-tight. If it helps you to know, iin my case, both the drawer and fridge are cleaned on a regular basis (once every month or two), so I definitely would not classify either as being dirty. –  Aaronut Oct 18 '10 at 14:05

Soft cheeses usually last at least 2 months in my fridge, but hard cheeses last 5 times that long

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PR beats parmesan almost every time because people don't pay as much for parmesan, so the production price has to be lower. It is made in larger quantities, aged less, and doesn't require the manufacturer to use high quality dairy. Standardization is good, it prevents manufacturers from cutting corners. Regionalisation isn't necessary but I guess the consumer has fun so nobody really minds...

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What does PR stand for? –  lemontwist Nov 2 '12 at 21:59

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