Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Cut Waste: Ideas on How to Use Up Leftover Cheese

Do you throw away anything that's just passed it's 'best before' date, regardless of its condition? If you do, you're not alone. Research suggest that 55% of us Brits do exactly that. And according to The British Cheese Board, a stinky £240m worth of cheese is thrown away each year.

But cheese company Pong thinks that's a huge waste. On their website they say: "If a cheese is thrown away in the days after its Best Before date then two heinous acts are committed: firstly all of that hard work and care that the producer has put in are in vain and secondly a perfectly good and healthy cheese, most likely in the very peak of its condition is lost." (A 'Use-By' date is different to a 'Best Before' date, remember).

It's tempting to throw away the ends of cheese wedges, but as long as you store them correctly, you can help cut waste and use them all up in gorgeous recipes!

The British Cheese Board's Tips for Storage

  • Although cheese is generally best enjoyed fresh, it can be stored in a cool environment for anything from a couple of days to several months, depending on the type of cheese.
  • Some softer cheeses such as Brie and Camembert actually improve with age, so you can buy them in advance and give them a chance to ripen. Just keep an eye on the ‘use before’ dates.
  • When storing cheese, either wrap it tightly in foil or cling film and if possible, keep in an airtight container in the bottom part of the fridge.
  • If you’ve bought more cheese than you can eat, it is possible to freeze certain open textured cheeses such as Stilton very effectively as the texture allows the ice crystals to form in the tiny gaps. Once defrosted in the fridge overnight, the texture and flavour is not affected.
  • With hard cheese like Cheddar the dense nature of the cheese means the ice crystals force the hard cheese apart, so when hard cheese defrosts it becomes crumbly. You can solve this problem to a large extent by grating hard cheeses prior to freezing then defrosting before use. It defrosts quickly at room temperature.

Recipes for Using Up Cheese

  • Soups: A chunk of Stilton or other similar blue cheese melted into a broccoli soup is heaven; it provides just the right amount of creaminess and tang. Or chuck a Parmesan rind whole, into a tomato soup. It won't melt - it'll just go a bit rubbery - but it will infuse it with a deeply savoury flavour. Remember to take it out before you blend it!
  • Veggies: Crumble blue cheese or Cheddar onto mushrooms and grill or bake them until it's all melted. My Mum actually told me this week that she makes a kind of 'courgette pizza' (her words, not mine) by slicing a courgette lengthways, topping with a tomato-based sauce and grating over some cheese before popping in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  • Sandwiches: Mozzarella in Carozza, anyone? If that seems like too much hard work, try cheese with chopped red onion, tuna mayonnaise or chilli jam. Or if you have some soft cheese left over, make Poor Knights of Windsor; or, as we call it Posh Eggy Bread.
  • Bread: You can knead gratings or pieces of cheese into bread dough before proving. Try grated Parmesan, Cheddar, Mozzarella or crumbled goat's cheese. Or, make a folded bread antipasti thing, a la Jamie; by using up all your leftover ham, olives and roasted veg, too.
  • Other favourites, such as pile little heaps of cheese on a baked potato (or baked sweet potato), stuff into aracini, scatter over pasta or cous cous or stir into a risotto. And don't just think Parmesan: one of my favourite risottos is a take on the classic comforting Mac and Cheese - and uses a sharp, tangy Cheddar.
  • A 'Leftover Cheese' Tart - use whatever cheese you have handy - ends of wedges and all - the recipe is here.
Do you have any other suggestions for using up cheese?

For more information about cheese and for more recipes, visit The British Cheese Board website.


  1. I'm not one of those who throws away food according to the printed use by or best before dates. I go by smell and look for most things. I'm more careful with meat but even then, it's a case of using common sense.
    Food isn't sold with an inbuilt computer inside that tells it when a certain date arrives, so it suddenly spoils, when it was fine just before midnight!
    With cheese in particular, I often find that the cheese has not reached its best by the dates given, and even soft cheeses last far longer than supposed.
    And even if it looks as though I have too much cheese in the fridge to get through (an unlikely scenario!) I freeze it rather than let it go to waste. Defrosted, I don't like the change to texture for eating as it is, but use it in cooking, my favourite being my husband's cheesey potato bake which mixes one blue cheese, one regular hard cheese and a soft.

  2. Kavey, that cheesy potato bake sounds lush! And funny you should say that a food doesn't go off at midnight - that's what I say all the time here! Thanks for your thoughts x