Types of Cheese: Identifying and Choosing Favorites

cheese typesIf you’ve been to the cheese display at your local grocery store or specialty foods marketplace recently, then you probably know that there are many different types of cheeses, hailing from all different regions around the world. For many people, cheese is an essential part of their diet, while for others it is a delicious occasional snack. Cheese can be incredibly simple or it can be very complex. It can be very basic, or it can be a finely crafted delicacy. Cheese can be aged over many years, or you can make a basic cheese for your own needs right in your very own kitchen.

You can learn effortless gourmet cooking right here on Udemy if you want to better utilize cheese in your own dishes. However, do keep in mind that better understanding the various types of cheese that are available to purchase will allow you to better utilize cheese in your own dishes.

Fresh Cheeses – A Favorite for Chefs

Fresh cheeses include those that have only very recently been made, and have not been aged. They have a tendency to be very soft – sometimes stretchy or stringy – and to have little to no color.  These types of cheese are ready to eat right away, and with enough cooking proficiency and the right tools, you can make many of them right in your very own kitchen. However, do bear in mind that these types of cheese tend to have a short shelf life, so they are best used up quickly. These fresh cheeses can include:

  • Ricotta
  • Mozzarella
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Fromage Frais
  • Cream Cheese

Often, these types of cheese are not eaten on their own, but used in recipes that call for cheese as a base for sauces. Ricotta is a common component of Italian dishes such as lasagna, while both cottage cheese and cream cheese are commonly blended with fruits or other ingredients to be used as a spread or to be eaten as a healthy and nutritious breakfast treat. Simply serving cheeses like mozzarella or ricotta with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh veggies can be a great, healthy Italian treat as well.

Soft-Ripened Cheese – Favorites Among Gourmands

While they remain as soft as fresh cheese, soft cheeses are not as mild as fresh cheese and have very distinctive flavors that require careful aging to create. The most famous of the soft-ripened cheeses are Brie and Camembert, both of which have a rich and buttery flavor in addition to a particular pungency that makes them distinctive from other types of cheese. When purchasing Brie or Camembert, it is important to note that the rind of the cheese should be checked to ensure it has the appropriate color. This rind, which is edible, should be chalky and white, without any additional coloration such as pinkness. You should also ensure that there is a slight give to the cheese, as a firmer Brie or Camembert will not have quite the same flavor as the softer version. Unfortunately, as these cheeses have become more popular and have been produced on the mass market, some shortcuts have led to lesser quality variations being sold in stores.

There are many different ways to eat these types of cheese. For many, simply having it with bread or crackers is perfect. However, for a fun twist, you may consider having baked Brie. These cheeses also pair well with delicate types of fruit such as apple and pear.

Semi-Hard Cheeses – Delicious and Versatile

While not the most well known of the cheese, there is plenty to love about the many types of semi-hard cheeses that are available. While not entirely soft, like Brie, they are not as hard as other types of cheese, either. They often have a somewhat crumbly texture, and are terrific for melting, either for sauces or for the creation of treats such as fondue. A great way to introduce kids to more gourmet cheese is by melting semi-hard cheese and using it for a delicious topping for mac and cheese. Check out this guide to healthy cooking with kids for more ideas.

They often have an earthier flavor than other types of cheese, as well as a particular “nuttiness”. However, they can also be sweet and salty. Often, the flavor of the cheese depends on the way that it was treated during the manufacturing process. Some semi-hard cheeses are brined using everything from wine and beer to fruit juices in order to give them more distinctive flavor.

Another notable thing about semi-hard cheeses is that there are varieties available from many different types of world cuisine. This makes them even more versatile than you might imagine, as they can be used in a number of different dishes.

Do keep in mind that some cheeses fall in both the semi-hard cheese category as well as in other categories, depending on that particular cheese maker. Often, it is possible to find both semi-hard and hard variants of popular types of cheese, such as Asiago. If you are looking for a cheese that has good melting qualities, the semi-hard variant is typically the way to go. Here are a few examples for you to consider:

  • Cheddar
  • Gouda
  • Gruyère
  • Monterey Jack
  • Swiss
  • A variety of specialty cheese made with various types of milk.

Hard Cheeses – Complex and Delicious Flavor

Most people are most comfortable using the many different varieties of hard cheese that are available in their grated or shredded form, but it could be worth your while to give these cheeses a try on your next cheese platter. The flavor of these cheeses is often incredibly complex, which makes them great for mixing into meals but makes them equally delicious when served on their own. These types of cheese can also be a great option for salads or for sprinkling on other types of foods.

Hard cheeses are denser, have far less moisture, and as a result of the process of creating them are often saltier than other types of cheese. As mentioned before, cheeses are available in both semi-hard and hard forms, Asiago being a prime example.

When buying a hard cheese, try and get a sample if possible. It can be too easy for these types of cheese to become tried out and hard as they are already very low in moisture. Some types to try include:

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Ricotto Salata
  • Dry Jack
  • SarVecchio

Blue Cheese – An Unusual But Delicious Choice

Most people have heard of blue cheese, but don’t know that there are actually a wide variety of blue cheeses available to choose from. You can easily identify blue cheese by the bluish color running through them. The flavor of these cheeses is typically salty, though other flavors can range from smoky, meaty, and very pungent to faintly caramel or chocolate in nature. Some examples to try include:

  • Gorgonzola
  • Roquefort
  • Stilton

Other Cheese to Consider

Though the majority of cheeses use cow’s milk, there are numerous delicious goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheese to try if you are really looking for some variety. Both of these types of cheese on the whole tend to be a bit saltier than cow’s cheese, though this varies depending on the style of cheese that you purchase. Many people say that goat and sheep cheese is healthier for you, and can be a great way to cook healthier gourmet food, something you can learn more about on Udemy.

Also remember that if you or someone you know is trying to lead a vegan lifestyle, there are many delicious vegan cheeses available. Though they are not quite the same as the real thing, they can be very tasty. Check out Udemy’s vegan and vegetarian cooking course if you want to learn more