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Are there specific techniques for carrying/storing cheese while backpacking for a longer time so it doesn´t spoil?

This question is related, but different: Cheese and eggs on backpacking trips

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could you specify how long you're planning to take that trip –  Jeredepp May 13 at 10:45
    
Well the question is about techniques that allow to take it as long as possible, so trip length shouldn´t matter –  Paul Paulsen May 13 at 13:24
    
The most important issue is what type of cheese you use. Hard cheeses such as a block of parmesan work best. –  Ben Crowell May 13 at 15:22
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Well the technique depends on the lenght of the trip, if you go for a daytrip you're fine by putting it in a ziplock, if you're out there for several weeks and you want to enjoy your cheese on the top of an uncharted mountain, that's a whole other story –  Jeredepp May 13 at 17:33
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Also of some import is: where are you going? In Scotland (and other colder climates) some cheeses can effectively last forever. Certainly longer than a 2 week holiday. I'm maybe not talking about brie, here, but definitely cheddars etc –  Rory Alsop May 13 at 20:52

5 Answers 5

Avoid

  • Putting cheese in plastic bags. Ever. Mold guaranteed. The cheese should receive enough air and shouldn't get wet.
  • Cutting a big piece into smaller pieces (for easier service, you know). First, you break the wax or vacuum bag, second, now you have much more surface and much more to cut if mold happens.

Best practices

  • If you can, prefer cheese sealed in wax (cheese heads).
  • If you can't, prefer cheese packed in vacuum bags. Here your mileage may vary depending on how it was packed, but usually they are safe for a couple of weeks.
  • If you just have an "open" piece of cheese, wrap it into paper, then put it into a "breathing" cotton bag. Again, don't use plastic bags! When you allow the cheese to breathe, it takes care of itself by forming hard dry "skin", which protects the inner contents.
  • Prefer hard cheese over soft cheese, if you go for more than a week.
  • If you take cheese for adding into spaghetti and not for eating directly, consider buying dried cheese or make it yourself: just grate it fine and let it dry. This you can (and should) put into plastic bag, and it's probably the most long lasting method of preservation.
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Thanks for your answer, it has a lot of good tips. I hope you don´t mind that I put my tips as well... –  Paul Paulsen May 13 at 16:35
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Additional to the two great answers already given I want to share my own experience, repeating some things and adding some:

Choose your Cheese carefully

As already mentioned, harder cheese will last longer. Good sorts (I don´t know if available outside Europe): Parmesan, Manchego, "Bergkäse".

The cheese will start to mold on the surface. Take this into account, bring large pieces instead of many small (or even slices). Don´t take cheese with holes with you.

As already mentioned by others cheese with a peeling of wax or of other kind will be a better choice since this part of the surface is covered.

I haven´t tried it yet, but I would refrain from bringing mold cheese (like Roquefort)in warm to hot climates/seasons since their taste will get stronger very fast and its hardly to predict how their (non-harming) mold will grow and affect spoiling.

Vegan "cheese" may be an alternative for you, since it is less prone to molding, especially if you want cheese stretch for pizza or pasta. However, conventional hard cheese should still be better.

Keep your cheese cold

Heat will make your cheese sweat and mold. This makes it easy to carry cheese in winter, but challenging in hot climates. Some tips for keeping it cold:

  • The refrigerating device suggested by Kate is great. If you don´t have a lake or stream at your disposal, you can try putting it under stones or something alike. Just make sure it doesn´t get eaten by animals - mice and racoon will open most bags, also plastic ones.

  • During daytime (in case you are moving), put it at the coldest spot available. Deep in your backpack, it can maintain a cold temperature for quite a long time, especially if you put it near water reserves (e.g. a hydration pack/camelbag). If your paddling, the bottom of your canoe/kayak will be quite cold and a good guess. However, this may conflict with the next point

Keep your Cheese dry

Moisture is as bad as heat. While you don´t want to put it in a plastic bag (see also next point), you definitely don´t want it to get wet, as it makes it mold a lot faster. You could put it in a permeable bag and then, together with other stuff (food or clothes, while the latter will probably start to smell) in a bigger, water-proof bag. This will prevent it from sweating as well as from getting wet.

Put it in a prepared cloth

I read about this technique for storing it and have tried it out with great success: Take a clean cloth (e.g. a towel) big enough to wrap your piece of cheese. Soak it in vinegar and let it dry off. If you want to make sure its soaked, you can repeat this. Now (after drying it thoroughfully!) wrap your cheese and carry it always in this towel. It's the best way to store it, the cloth is now kind of antiseptic and will repel mold and is, on the other hand, very permeable. You still want to make sure it doesn´t get wet.

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I buy small bricks of "light" cheese (typically cheddar; we have also tried mozzarella) and keep them sealed as long as possible. (The lower fat cheeses are less likely to sweat beads of oil on a hot day. This isn't about going bad but it doesn't look nice.) After opening a sealed pack I put it in a Ziploc but its days are numbered so I'd rather have a day where everyone has a cheese sandwich and there's cheese on the pizza, then a cheese-free day, than a series of days in which we eat a quarter of a small block of cheese.

I keep the cheese in the food pack while we're traveling, but when we get to camp I put the plastic bags in a mesh bag along with a rock, tie a hockey lace (extraordinarily long shoe lace and super useful for camping stuff) to it, throw it as far in the lake (or better, river) as I can and tie the lace to a tree so we don't lose it. This makeshift fridge has kept us happy on the cheese front for trips of up to ten days, and raccoons etc have not found my underwater stash in the night and eaten it.

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Nice fridge, I sure have to try that out! :) –  Paul Paulsen May 13 at 16:34

Hard cheese and Feta keeps well in olive oil, and this can improve the flavour.

This saves buttering the bread in sandwiches, means you can store it ready sliced and in plastic.

You see this often in the Med.

Eggs will also keep indefinitely if completely coated in oil, it makes the shell impermeable. Although I wouldn't keep eggs and cheese in the same oil since eggs come from a chicken's anus.

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There might be risks of botulism with storing the cheese in oil. I'm not an expert, but a quick googling raises some concerns from others with storing cheese in oil -- best to find a trustworthy source before considering –  Dolan Antenucci May 16 at 18:44
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@Dolan Well, I for myself take "a method used by Greek farmes for centuries" as a trustworthy source. Still, it makes sense not to overdo it and store it forever this way. –  Paul Paulsen May 22 at 7:28
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I should probably add that this might be different for different regions. In europe, botulism seems not to be that big a problem while there are a lot of highly infected soils in the US. –  Paul Paulsen May 22 at 8:17

Carry cheese that is already mouldy (e.g. Camembert). Then you don't have to worry. I've stored such cheese at room temperature for weeks, to give it a better "bloom", and a more developed flavor. I have done this numerous times, eaten all of it and was perfectly fine. Not even any gastro-intestinal discomfort.

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