Nothing says summer like dairy products from the number one dairy state, California. From scoops of cold, creamy ice cream to melted cheese atop juicy grilled burgers, dairy and summer menus go together like sweet corn and butter. But nothing spoils the summer fun like spoiled milk, which is why it's important to know how to store your dairy products - especially in the hotter months.
Before bringing dairy products home from the store, ensure all items are securely sealed. Do not leave fresh dairy products in a hot car where they can lose freshness. Refrigerate immediately to keep them at the appropriate temperature.
Keeping cheese fresh after opening depends on the type of cheese you have. Follow these guidelines to keep mold at bay:
* Fresh cheese such as Queso Blanco or Ricotta should be refrigerated in its original package.
* Soft-ripened cheese like Brie, Camembert or breakfast cheese will keep up to several weeks if properly stored in its original plastic wrap.
* Cheddar, Feta, Cotija, Mozzarella and other hard or semi-hard cheeses can remain enjoyable for four to eight weeks if properly stored. If you don't consume all the cheese in one use, re-wrap in parchment or waxed paper and store in a plastic container or a resealable plastic bag.
* Very hard cheeses such as Asiago or Romano are much lower in moisture than other cheeses and will keep for months if stored the same way as semi-hard cheeses.
* If you do see mold growing on your semi-hard or hard cheese, don't immediately toss. If the mold is located in a place it can be cut out, cut 1/4 of an inch below it and plan to consume your cheese in the next few days.
Yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, creme fraiche
* Yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and creme fraiche should be refrigerated in their original packaging and discarded as soon as any mold is spotted. Be sure to use a clean spoon that hasn't touched other foods if you won't be using the entire container so you don't introduce any contaminants that may shorten shelf-life.
* These containers are stamped with a "sell by" date, which refers to how long the retail store can keep the product for sale on the shelf.
* Some butter packaging is stamped with a "best used by" date, intended to tell how long the product will be at top eating quality.
* Butter can be frozen for up to four months.
* Store butter in the refrigerator tightly wrapped or in a covered dish.
* Keep butter away from highly aromatic foods so it does not pick up foreign flavors.
* Butter can be kept at room temperature for short periods of time, but should be refrigerated to maintain peak flavor.
Milk, buttermilk and cream
Fluid milk is rich in important nutrients like calcium, protein and minerals. Studies show that the calcium found in nutrient-rich milk strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis.
* Store fresh milk in the refrigerator, which is typically set at 38 to 40 F. Keep it in the closed container in which it is sold to prevent absorption of other flavors.
* Milk and other fluid dairy products are stamped with a "sell by" date, which refers to how long the retail store can keep the product for sale on the shelf.
* No matter what the "sell by" date says, if milk has an off odor or taste, it is best to discard it.
*Freezing these products is not recommended as it causes undesirable changes in the texture and appearance.
* In the case of buttermilk, separation normally occurs as it sits, so shake well before using.
* Ultrapasteurized cream keeps several weeks longer than pasteurized cream or half-and-half, but once opened, it should be handled like pasteurized cream and used within one week.
Enjoy a scoop of ice cream or a yogurt parfait and celebrate National Dairy Month and Ice Cream Month all year long. Make sure to look for the Real California Milk and Cheese seals to guarantee you're getting products made with 100 percent California milk from California's more than 1,500 dairy families. For more recipes and entertaining ideas, visit RealCaliforniaMilk.com, like RCM at Facebook.com/RealCaliforniaMilk, follow at Twitter.com/RealCalifMilk, pin at Pinterest.com/RealCalifMilk and Instagram @RealCalifMilk.