May 14, 2018
May 14, 2018
Before the advent of food supermarkets till a few years ago, Cheese was available in three forms – Cheese Slices, Cheese Cubes and Cheese Spread. The first time we peered into a glass case lined with hundreds of cheese in various shapes, sizes and colours, it was overwhelming to say the least, and we have no shame in admitting that exclusive cheese shops and carts still intimidate us. There are more than 500 varieties of cheese and the technicality of cheesemaking can make you want to quit the world of cheese exploration. Yes, we all know Feta goes into Greek salad, Mozzarella is topped on the Pizza, and Parmesan goes on your Pasta, but If you are a cheese lover (let’s not dare to call ourselves connoisseurs when it comes to cheese) like us, you would like to occasionally indulge in an informed elevated experience with this beauty called cheese. We have outlined the basic types below which will work as your hand-out for all practical purposes – buying, shopping, cooking &eating cheese!
The types of cheese are classified in numerous ways - texture, the ageing, fat content, method of preparation, country of origin, as well as the animal content and several other factors. We have used firmness as the classifying factor here, which varies with the degree of moisture content.
Cheese in its youngest, purest form is Fresh cheese. Usually prepared without the use of animal enzymes of any fermentation process, this category of cheese is full of moisture; it is uncooked and is meant to be consumed shortly after it is prepared. The most common examples of Fresh Cheese are:
Mozzarella: It is an Italian cheese typically made from the buffalo milk. Because of its rubbery texture, it is the first choice of garnish on Pizzas.
Cream Cheese: Made from a combination of milk and cheese, it is the first choice when cheese needs to be spread or used as a dip, e.g. in Bagels and desserts.
Ricotta: Ricotta is an Italian whey* cheese made from the sheep, Cow, Goat or Buffalo milk whey left over from the production of cheese. It has a smooth and moist outer layer and makes a great ingredient in pasta, Sandwiches, or making cheesy dips.
Paneer or Cottage cheese: Paneer is the non-melting version of cheese, especially famous in the Indian subcontinent. It has a crumbly and creamy texture and is a favourite choice for making curries.
* Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained.
Cheese that undergoes ripening* for a short period of time, resulting in a soft, creamy texture is termed as soft cheese. This type of cheese has a moisture content of 50-60% and should be typically consumed within few weeks of its formation. The most common examples of Soft cheese are:
Feta cheese: One of the oldest cheeses in the world which have been accepted as Greek only cheese since October 2002**. It is a brined*** cheese typically made from sheep milk or a mixture of sheep and goat milk. Feta is white in colour with a rich aroma and a salty taste, making it a perfect ingredient for salads, roasted vegetables, pies or anything which requires salty cheese.
Brie: Brie is a soft cow’s -milk cheese named after Brie - the French region from which it originated and is today one of the best known French Cheese. It has a rich and creamy texture, melts well and is thus popularly used in cooking.
*Ripening is the last stage in cheese making process.
**The name feta is limited to brined cheese made exclusively of sheep’s or sheep ’s and goat ’s milk in Greece.
***Cheese that is aged/matured in a solution of brine – salt and water.
Firm & Semi-Firm Cheese
Semi-firm cheese is uncooked, pressed cheese that is dense and usually pale yellow in colour. Firm cheese, however, is cheese that has been cooked and pressed. For making firm cheese, the curd is heated for an hour in order to make it more concentrated, which, upon pressing, produces a more compact cheese. This cheese usually has a hard texture with a moisture content of 30-50%, however, hard cheese like Parmesan or Romano also has a granular texture. Most common examples of semi-firm and firm cheese are:
Cheddar –Originated in the village of Cheddar, England, Cheddar is a cheese made from cow’s milk that ranges in flavour from mild to sharp depending on the length of its ageing. The sharpness of the cheese increases as the cheese matures over time. Cheddar is one of the most versatile forms of cheese and can be used in cooking, making dips, or sprinkled raw on top.
Gouda – Gouda originated in the city of Gouda in the Netherlands. It is a Dutch yellow cheese typically made from cow’s milk and is one of the most popular forms of cheese worldwide. The most common use of Gouda cheese is in sandwiches and is also served cold with wine, crackers, and dips.
Parmesan – Parmesan is an Italian cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a grainy texture with a fruity and nutty taste. The most common use of Parmesan is as a flavouring ingredient, especially in pasta dishes, soups salads, and risottos.
Romano – Native to Rome, Romano is also a hard cheese prepared with cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, Goat’s milk or a mixture of two or all three milk. It is most commonly used in the grated form and works excellently as table cheese paired with wine and crackers
Cheese that is prepared by adding cultured species so that the final form is spotted or veined throughout with blue or blue-grey mould is called Blue cheese. This form is neither cooked nor pressed and has a sharp salty flavour with a crumbly texture. Because of its peculiar taste and smell, blue cheese is thought to be an acquired taste with people either loving it or hating it.
Other than the above, there are two other commonly found categories of cheese: Processed Cheese and Goat Cheese.
When cooked or uncooked, pressed cheese is processed by re-melting and adding milk, cream, or butter along with stabilizers, emulsifiers, salt, colours, seasonings and so on, the resulting product is called processed cheese. One of more types of different cheese can be used to make a processed form. Processed cheese is characterized by a mild flavour, soft and elastic texture and a long shelf life. The cheese slices by Amul and grated cheese by Kraft are the most common examples of processed cheese.
Cheese that is made from 100% Goat milk or a combination of goat milk and cow milk is often categorized as Goat cheese. Goat Cheese is most commonly available in soft and spreadable forms, however, goat cheese can also be made in semi-firm and firm cheese forms. Due to the tangy flavour of goat milk, this cheese tends to have a distinctive and more pronounced flavour, thereby making it a product with an acquired taste.