Cheese and onions are the two foods I’ve had the most trouble storing in the refrigerator, after opening, without hosting a mold colony. I’ve tried various tips for safe storage and finally come across methods that work for me.
They have one thing in common: glass jars, which are overall my favorite way of storing food. I use old salsa jars, the squat cylindrical kind, for onions, as well as for spicy leftovers; the salsa scent never fully leaves the lid lining, so those jars are for strong-smelling foods while old nut-butter jars (different shape) are for sweeter leftovers. Because we keep the cheese in a refrigerator door compartment with a flip-up door, where a jar only fits in sideways, I use a flat-sided jar–certain brands of jam and salsa come in those–so it won’t roll out.
After removing the original package and slicing off as much cheese as I’m going to use now, I cut the rest into chunks narrow enough to fit through the neck of the jar. (This isn’t always necessary, depending on the size of jar and amount of cheese, but usually it needs one cut.) I wrap it in a paper towel, then put it into the jar. If there might be confusion about what kind of cheese it is, I tape part of the package to the jar or make a label with masking tape.
Each time we use more cheese, we re-wrap the remaining cheese and put it back into the jar. The paper towel often feels damp, but only if it feels really wet or icky do we throw it away and use a new towel. Paper towels seem to be less likely to fall apart and stick to the cheese than paper napkins.
I’d bet that cheesecloth is even better for wrapping cheese–just based on the name!–but I haven’t tried it yet.
If the cheese does get moldy (it takes longer to happen than with other storage methods, but sometimes we just lose our taste for cheese temporarily and leave it for weeks), then I cut off the moldy part, at least half an inch in from the edge of the visible mold, and wash the rest of the cheese in warm water, dry it with one towel, wrap it in another towel, and put it away in a clean jar. That usually gets rid of the mold.
The paper towels can be composted after use. They don’t seem to have enough cheese scent on them to attract mice to our yard.
I cut off and compost the entire outer skin, since this is the part that was in contact with the dirt and therefore most likely to have mold spores on it. Sometimes, if the onion was visibly dirty, I’ll wash it and the knife and cutting board after removing the skin. Then I cut off what I’m going to use now, cut the rest into chunks that fit into the jar, and simply close the jar and stick it in the crisper drawer. The onion lasts at least a week before the cut edges start to dry out or get mushy. We usually use it before then. Mold is very rare with this method.
I’ve also found an onion pre-storage method that works well: See the “old pantyhose” section of “What Do You Reuse?”.
When we buy a lot of onions at once to get a bargain price, I freeze some of them. Of course, onions that have been frozen aren’t so pleasant to eat raw because they’ve lost their texture, but in cooked foods they work just fine.
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