Cheese- arguably the best dairy product. Be it pizza, nachos or even dosas, cheese has taken over the world by a storm (sorry to any lactose intolerant readers). But apart from the mainstream Cheddar, Parmesan and Mozzarella we don’t know or understand the world of cheese.
This is the most basic of all cheeses. Made out of mostly naturally curdled milk, some say it is the purest form of cheese. Unaged, these cheeses generally have mild, sometimes salty or tangy, taste. This is simple but satisfying cheese has no rind and has a high moisture content. This results in a wet, soft cheese that one has to consume immediately or in a few days.
Examples- Feta cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, Mascarpone cheese, fresh goat cheese (chevre)
Semi-Soft and Soft Cheese
Semi-soft cheeses are firmer and more compact. These are lightly pressed rubbery, elastic milk curds. They aren’t ripened for long and are usually paired with bread. These cheeses have a 45-60% moisture content. This cheese attracts molds forms a leathery rind around the cheese. Sometimes the interior is heated. The size of the rind relates to the flavor of the cheese. Those with thin rinds are more buttery while thicker rinds tend to be denser in taste
Examples- Munster cheese, Camembert, Brie
Aged Fresh Cheese
These are fresh cheese which has been aged only slightly, enough for them to grow a transparent sort of rind. This type of cheese is mostly made from goat’s milk and the rind can be from wrinkled white to grey-blue.
Examples- ricotta, cottage cheese, mozarella
Firm and Semi-Firm Cheese
This is the largest category of cheese with some of the most popular varieties. The semi-firm cheeses are pressed, dense and uncooked. Their colour is usually pale yellow. Firm cheeses are also pressed and dense but they are cooked and dark yellow. Some hard cheeses might also have a grainy texture. These cheeses are used to add sharpness in dishes like omelettes, quiches, pizzas, etc.
Examples- Parmesan, Cheddar, Cantal, Reblochon, Edam, Gouda, Monterey Jack Gruyère, Emmenthal, Jarlsberg, Raclette and Beaufort
White fuzzy rind cheese
These cheeses grow a soft white rind which helps them age and ripens the cheese. It also helps in keeping the soft, moist interior intact during this process. These cheeses are creamy and can be consumed at any point, aged or unaged.
Examples- Brillat Savarin, Explorateur, Pierre Robert
Hard cheeses are the firmest cheeses, which are pressed for a long duration of time to remove the whey and compact the curds. They have a very low moisture content and are the most flavourful. The cheeses have a variety of yellow, pink, white, blue mould which transforms into a hard polished rind over the ages.
Examples- Asiago D’allevo, Parmigiano-Reggiano
Blue Veined Cheese
The name of this cheese is pretty self-explanatory. The cheese is characterised by having blue-green veins. These veins appear because the uncooked, unpressed cheese is injected with blue-green mold via long needles. Then the cheese is kept in a humid place and left to ripen for a couple of months. This variety of cheese has a very strong smell and taste.
Examples- Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Bleu de Bresse and Danish Blue
This cheese is made from low-fat milk and is generally preferred by many health buffs out there. This is made by reducing the butterfat in milk. This ends up in the cheese being slightly rubbery and not as flavourful or pungent as full-fat cheeses.
Examples- Light Havarti, Lite Cheddar
Added Flavour cheese
These are the most interesting cheeses. These have either infused flavours or added herbs. It’s always better and more flavourful to add the added flavours from scratch rather than add it to a formed young cheese.
Examples- Gouda and rosemary, Spiced cheddar
This type of cheese is the most easily available in the markets. At least in the Indian supermarkets, these are convenient and cheap. These might be cooked or uncooked, pressed or unpressed. A lot of stabilizers, artificial flavorings, seasonings and colors are added to these to give them a long shelf life.
Examples- cheese spread, cheese cubes, cheese slices, cheese spray, cheese dip
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the world of cheese making. The ratio of colour, rind, ageing, pressing, cooking and ingredients can all deeply change what each cheese would taste like and how to eat it. Cheese is a vast concept and it’s really interesting to know how it works. Maybe you can get some wine, learn a bit of french and impress your friends with your knowledge as a cheese connoisseur the next time you host a dinner party.