19 January 2020

Fridge-dried cheeses

I'm on a kind of cheese roll these days, if you see what I mean. Lately, I've been drying leftover pieces of cheese in the refrigerator. Why? So that they get hard like Parmesan cheese and can be finely grated the way Parmesan is grated, using a micro-plane grater. I've fridge-dried Cheddar, Comté, and other cheeses you wouldn't expect to find "ripened" this way.

A selection of cheeses that have been dried or are still drying in the refrigerator

This all started in 1994, actually. Walt and I were spending a week or two in Paris, in an apartment on the Île Saint-Louis. An American couple that Walt knew from work in California were in Paris at the same time, staying on the rue Monge in the Latin Quarter. One day, shopping on the rue Montorgueil, I went into a cheese shop I remembered from the days a dozen years earlier when I lived in that neighborhood, and I bought a goat cheese.

When dinner time rolled around, I unwrapped that goat cheese and found out that it was as dry and hard as a rock. At first I thought I had been rooked. What would I do with that hard chunk of cheese? Well, I decided to grate it and melt it in cream sauce to serve with pasta. When I grated it, I realized it was like grated Parmesan, but with a slightly different flavor. I made the pasta and the cream sauce with grated goat cheese and served it. We were all blown away when we realized how good it tasted.

Above: grated Parmesan and grated goat cheese

Another reason for fridge-drying cheeses is the fact that we've never been able to find the Italian cheese called Peccorino Romano here in the Loire Valley. It's made from ewe's milk. One day a year or so ago, Walt wondered if we could make our own Peccorino Romano by drying slices of Basque Country ewe's milk cheese ourselves. We did, and it worked.

Serve grated fridge-dried cheeses with pasta dishes like this one.

So how do you go about drying cheeses in the fridge? Well, I just cut fairly thin (say half an inch, about a centimeter) slices of fresh cheese and wrap them in a paper towel. I leave them in the refrigerator for weeks, examining them from time to time, waiting for the time and the cheese to get ripe. Then we can grate the cheese over pasta or into a cream sauce.

Two of these pieces of ewe's-milk cheese have been drying for a week, and one is fresh. The semi-dried pieces have taken on a more pronounced yellow color.

Goat cheeses are really good done this way too. In fact, sometimes you can buy them already dried, the way that long-ago cheese in Paris was dried. More often, you find demi-sec (semi-dry) goat cheese at the market. They're soft enough that you can cut them in half with a knife. For those, there's no need for a paper towel. I just cut them and put them in a paper bag and set them in the refrigerator. Grated, the goat cheese is delicious.

Here's a close-up of some of the fridge-dried goat cheeses that we are enjoying these days. The rind of the cheese is perfectly edible and can be grated along with the white part of the cheese.


  1. Coo yummy, mummy!
    I see you are still eating those millenium bugs....
    actually I like that pasta shape....
    and the one called giggli.... they both carry the sauce very nicely.
    We have quite a lot of grated, dried cheese in the freezer....
    Laurent Joumier, on the hill above us sells his old, dried cheeses at the markets.
    And I buy and grate it, as you do....
    until I feel that my fingers are too close to the Microplane surface...
    then I chop that last bit up and blitz it in a very old Moulinex coffee grinder....
    I live in fear of those Microplane teeth.
    But, apart from buying the occasional "log" from Laurent, I have never bought cheese to dry.
    I might try with some brebis though...

    1. I think that pasta I bought and cooked was called radiatori.

      I've never had trouble with my microplane grater — no grated fingers here.

      Do try the dried sheep's cheese.

  2. Having had American Swiss cheese molding in the refrigerator, just like you, several years ago, I tried drying it in the refrigerator wrapped in a paper towell and it worked. Once the cheese is dried up it can be stored for a long time in a tight container and never molds again. That way I have cheese always ready to grate whenever needed.

    I'll try that with goat cheese in France, since there is no goat cheese worth it in my parts of the US.

    1. You might find chèvre sec (hard dry goat cheese) in your Paris supermarkets. I can find it here once in a while, with a little sticker on it that says Je suis sec! Then you can just grate it.

  3. Very interesting tips from you and chm, Ken. Thanks!

  4. I think this is a brilliant idea. I am sure I can use it. But our goat cheese here is very soft Chevre and Peccorino Romano is very available, so I will use other cheese to experiment. It is good not to waste food!

    1. I wonder what dried and grated Jack cheese would be like.

    2. I have some pepper Jack that I am wondering about. How would the bits of pepper work....

    3. With a microplane, anything grates!!

  5. This is so clever and obviously never occurred to me, as I've thrown out countless bits of cheese that have gone hard. Won't do that again. Great post.

    1. As CHM mentioned, when you just wrap a piece of cheese in a paper towel or put it in a paper bag, the cheese doesn't develop mold. It just dries out.

  6. Yes, yes, and yes! Great idea that will save me money for I have also thrown out hard cheeses in the past.
    By the way, (BTW) I have been spending more time in the cheese department and buying more cheese this past week than I usually do thanks to your info on cheeses! As someone mentioned earlier this past week; I could not find Melon or Meaux Brie locally, but I did purchase a french fermier brie - cow's milk cheese originally at $20/lb but I purchased a small, reduced pkg for $4. The cheese clerk looked up on their original package where it was from, but I have forgotten as they put their own label on the cheese for sale. I will ask again and write it down.

    Mary in Oregon

    1. I'll be curious to know where that Brie was made. Are you buying cheese at Whole Foods? When we lived in SF the WF had a very good selection. I hope other supermarkets do too nowadays.

  7. There are a number of good cheeses at my local Trader Joe's, and a surprising selection at Aldi's, although that varies week to week. Fresh Market, which is think is mostly in the south, also has decent cheeses.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?