If you like foods like cheese, chocolate, yogurt, sourdough bread and soy sauce, you owe a big thank-you to bacteria, yeast and mold.
It may sound off-putting, but bacteria, yeast and mold are responsible for many of the planet's favorite foods.
In the case of dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, bacteria play an important role in flavor, function and good health.
Most yogurts, including those made in California, are made by the addition of milk to two or more types of bacteria, including Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. These types of bacteria are called "cultures" and work to create distinct flavors and textures in the yogurt.
Although we tend to love the bacteria, yeasts and molds that make some of our favorite foods, there are plenty of other microscopic bugs out there that want to spoil those same foods. To ensure the safety of your yogurt, store it in the refrigerator in its original, sealed container. After you open your cheese, re-wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator, as well. Moldy yogurt should be thrown away; even a spot on the lid means that more bad bacteria are making their way into your yogurt.
Mold on cheese isn't a reason to panic. If the mold is completely cut out, you can safely eat the cheese, as long as you plan to finish it within a day or two.
Always check the sell-by date on your dairy products, and before you buy it, determine if you can finish it by the date or a few days after. If not, look for a container with a later date or buy a smaller portion. Try to keep track of how quickly you generally finish your yogurt or cheese to get a better idea of how much to buy each week.
More About Cheese and Yogurt
Yogurt in a dish with spoonYogurt has been made and eaten by humans for hundreds of years, but it's only within the last few decades that a wide variety of yogurts have made their way into our grocery store coolers. Now we have our pick of Greek yogurt, which has much of the water strained out, making it thicker and higher in protein; flavored yogurt; fat-free, low-fat and full-fat yogurt; and even yogurt drinks like kefir, which originated in the Caucuses and are popular in Eastern and Northern Europe.
Yogurt is a versatile ingredient that can be used in place of mayonnaise in dishes like tuna salad, potato salad, chicken salad or pasta salad. It's also great dolloped on soups like tomato bisque or borscht.
Cheese, too, is the product of bacteria cultures and an aging process that causes fermentation. There is a wide range of production methods that yields many different flavors and forms of cheese. The World Cheese Exchange Database catalogs 1,400 varieties of cheese; in the U.S., there are about 200 varieties produced, and about one-third of all milk produced in the U.S. is used to make 8.5 billion pounds of cheese each year.
In nearly every store that sells food, you can find cheese, from fresh varieties like feta, mozzarella and ricotta to specialty ripened cheeses like bleu, Gorgonzola and brie.
And with such a variety of yogurts and cheeses on the market, you can try something new each week and experiment with different flavors and textures!