When I first got into the habit of purchasing serious quantities of cheese, I often ran into the “problem” of having to consume it all, and quickly, before it turned on me. My preferred cheese suppliers are my in-laws, and when they would visit from Spain I often received a whole wheel of Manchego cheese. We would eat the cheese, tapas style, for days, and grate a little here and there over pasta, but no matter how much we chipped away at the block, I was invariably facing an inventory overload.
My solution at the time was to roll up my sleeves and grate away, seal the grated cheese in a zip-loc bag, and toss it into the freezer. When I came to use it in cooking a week or so later I would tell myself that everything was fine, but really both the cheese and I were crying inside. The cheese was dead, and there was no saving it.
So where did I go wrong? Well the first sin was in grating the cheese well in advance of using it. Cheese should be grated to order, and once grated loses much of its luster within a few hours. Second, I resorted to freezing, with no real plan of action to use it within the next few days. Freezing and thawing cheese stresses the cell structure of the fat and protein cells, and at best results in weird textures (very grainy or flinty cheese) and at worst can result in rancid cheese.
If you must freeze cheese for later use, freeze small amounts, and keep the chunk intact. Make sure the cheese is wrapped tightly (if the cheese has freezer burn throw it out!), and do not freeze soft or semi-soft cheeses. These cheeses were not meant to last forever and with higher water content are more susceptible to rancidity or extreme textural changes.
Bottom line? Buy what you can consume, my Cheesaholics. Yes, it’s nice to have a “stash” for emergencies, but with enough planning and trips to a reputable cheese-monger you can have your cheese fresh and freezer-free at all times.