A friend told me recently that I “see new uses for things that most people don’t.” What a compliment! I used to consider this to be a weird trait that meant I really should have lived during the Great Depression, but, reframed by my friend, I enjoying thinking of it as a secret super power. I see things others don’t! Sounds almost spidey-like ;)
This weekend I went on a retreat-day at a stunning winery in Sonoma where they served some fancy packaged snacks - things I don’t usually buy but am always super excited to try! We snacked on some vegan “Sour Cream and Chive Zucchini Chips.” (They were good, not great, in case you were wondering.) Fresh vegetable “chips” like this - think kale chips if you’ve ever seen those before - often come with a desiccant packet (see photo below), which usually contains silica and is often labeled as such. You may have seen these little packets come in other purchases such as a new purse, wallet, or luggage. A desiccant is a drying agent. The packets absorb moisture and prevent the growth of mold. In the case of vegetable chips this is especially important because any moisture will cause the chips to become chewy instead of crispy - and trust me, chewy, dried kale is NOT tasty.
These little packets inspire mild annoyance when you accidentally grab one instead of your next chip, but wait! What if, instead, you saw this packet as a FREE GIFT with which to keep a favorite splurge food FRESHER for LONGER! Use your resourcefulness spidey-sense!
The splurge food I’m talking about, which I almost always have in my fridge, is Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s commonly known as parmesan cheese, but I’m talking about the REAL stuff here: aged 18-24 months, usually around $20/lb, which comes from only the “official area” in Italy. According to the Parmigiano-Reggiano website, to be classified as Parmigiano-Reggiano, “both the production of milk and its transformation into cheese take place in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna (to the west of the Reno River) and Mantua (to the east of the Po River).” Very specific, as you can see.
I always have some in my fridge, and though it does last pretty long, all cheeses get moldy eventually. Until now!! To reduce the chances + speed of mold growth, I repurpose desiccant/silica packets to keep my Parmigiano mold-free. From my experience, it works pretty well!
If you want to get yourself a desiccant packet, first look for one that may already be in your house. Vitamins and supplements sometimes contain them. Otherwise, I know kale chips almost always have them. I wish I could think of another, less-hippie-crunchy food than kale chips that would have a desiccant packet, but alas - I have lived in California too long!
A few additional thoughts on Parmigiano: It’s best when grated with a microplane* (one of my favorite kitchen tools), as this produces tiny wisps of gratings that gently pile on top of each other like a light, cheesy pillow. Parmigiano makes your laziest, simplest meals decadent and delicious - scrambled eggs, greens, simple salads, anything that needs a little “dressed up” - the perfect-combination-of-salt-and-fat Parmigiano will do the trick!
I have some fun facts about my family and Parmigiano, but I’m already over my word limit so I’ll save those for another post! Happy cheese-eating and mold-preventing!
Note: I only use desiccant packets that have come in food. I don’t use the ones that come in luggage or leather goods for preserving my cheese. It seems safest to go with only the ones that were already approved to touch food. Also - as it usually says clearly on the packet - THE PACKET IS NOT FOR EATING, just in case that isn’t clear!
*I finally created Amazon affiliate links! If you buy a microplane using this link, I will get a very small commission. I will only ever link to products I love and use regularly. The microplane is one of my most beloved kitchen tools; this is the lowest price I can find online and this is also the exact one I own. I use it almost daily for zesting, grating ginger and garlic, dry/hard spices, and of course - Parmigiano! More links and a full products page coming soon!