Why You Need to Freeze Your Cheese
It turns out the answer is yes. And in some cases, it's a great idea.
Dairy is a complicated thing to freeze, and that includes cheese. Some hard aged cheeses like Parmesan or even older cheddar can be frozen for shorter periods of time with little damage to the integrity of the cheese itself. Soft cheeses like Brie or fresh cheeses like chèvre do not do well being frozen. Block cheeses will usually freeze better than sliced or grated cheeses. In general, freezing cheese is usually considered a last choice when it comes to storage: when you really need to salvage products that just won't last in your refrigerator.
Freezing cheese… for salads!?
But there are times when freezing your cheese is actually a smart choice, and for me, that is all about salads. Salads are lifted by the addition of cheeses, and certain cheeses, when frozen, add some extra snap to a chilled salad that work really well. Here are the three cheeses to try freezing for use in salads.
How to freeze cheese to use in salads
For all cheeses, cut to the shape you want, then arrange in a single layer on a parchment-covered sheet pan and put in the freezer uncovered until frozen before storing in a zip top bag. By pre-freezing, the cheese will not stick to itself and will allow you to separate out the pieces. I recommend storing in portion-sized bags for ease of use.
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Shaving Parmesan thin with a vegetable peeler or cheese plane and freezing puts me mere moments from one of my favorite salads: thinly sliced celery, fennel, and green apple dressed simply with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper and then garnished with a pile of frozen shaved Parm. Freezing the Parm provides a little snap that works incredibly well with the crisp textures of the other ingredients, and as the cheese warms in the mouth, the flavor really pops.
Julienne Swiss cheese
A nutty Swiss-style cheese like Emmenthal, Gruyère, or Jarlsburg cut into julienne strips is the ideal cheese to use for composed salads like Cobb or chef's salads. The frozen cheese helps bring in that extra cold element and can help keep the whole salad taste well-chilled throughout eating. My favorite salad to make with this is a combo of romaine and iceberg with julienned frozen Swiss, shredded carrot, cucumber, radish, and croutons with a creamy-style mild Dijon vinaigrette
Grated cheddar cheese
Grating super sharp cheddar on the largest holes of the box grater to create long curls of cheese gives you a style of frozen cheese that really mixes well into your salads as you toss. I love it in an escarole and endive salad with cubed ham, golden raisins, toasted sliced almonds, and a paprika-spiced red wine vinaigrette with a little honey in it, a lighter version of those sweet and sour orange "French" dressings.