Natural cheeses can generally be divided into four different groups - fresh or un-ripened, and ripened, soft and semi-soft, semi-hard to hard and very hard. Knowing this distinction can be handy for a couple of reasons.
First, generally the longer a cheese has been ripened, the firmer it is and the longer the cheese will keep. Fresh cheese which hasn't been ripened should generally be used within a week or two whereas a hard cheese like parmesan can keep for months.
Also, when preparing a cheese board, it is often desirable to create one with a variety of textures and types. This quick reference chart will provide a guideline to help you make those choices.
What is Cheese?
Cheese is a food that is produced from the milk of an animal, usually a cow, sheep or goat. Cheese is created when the milk goes through 3 steps: coagulation, compression, and ripening. Variations in the cheese-making process have yielded thousands of different cheeses, including more than 400 in France alone! Cheese has existed for thousands of years, and its presence as an integral part of our diet is unmistakable. Cheese can be found on our bagels at the breakfast table, on our cheeseburgers during lunch, used as a gourmet cheese and on our lasagna during dinner
How is Cheese Made?
Upon extracting milk from an animal, the milk is heated and bacteria are introduced in order to bring on coagulation. Next, rennet is introduced into the mixture and the milk curdles and hardens. After the coagulation, the curds (the cheese) need to be compressed in order to eliminate the whey (liquid). Usually, cutting up the curds eliminates the whey. After the whey is gone, some cheeses are salted in order to slow ripening. The final step in making cheese is ripening the cheese. How much each cheese is allowed to ripen is dependent upon several factors including temperature and humidity. Depending on the type of cheese the manufacturer wishes to make, he will vary the temperature and humidity accordingly.
Storing and Serving Cheese
Cheese should always be wrapped in waxed paper and sealed in a bag in order maintain its freshness. It’s best to keep it in the bottom of the refrigerator. If kept in waxed paper and refrigerated, hard cheeses can last up to a month, while softer cheeses can last up to 2 weeks. Cheeses should be removed from the refrigerator at least one hour before you plan on using it.
How can you consume cheese? There are just as many ways to consume cheese as there are cheeses. Cheese can be used in a sandwich, spread on bread, sprinkled over salads, or melted on top of meats. Even though cheese is usually consumed in combination with another food product, many people do eat cheese on its own.
Varieties of Cheese
There are thousands of different cheeses around the world. Cheeses vary according to what animal they came from (cow, goat, sheep, etc.), what type of milk they came from (raw, skim, pasteurized), and variations in the way they were processed.
The most popular cheese in the world is Cheddar Cheese. Parmesan and Mozzarella are popular Italian cheeses. Brie cheese and Camembert cheese are popular French cheeses. Other popular cheeses are Muenster, Colby, Swiss and Gouda.
American: Because of its mild and delicate flavor, its semi-soft and smooth texture - and the fact it's usually found in convenient square slices - American is known as one of the all-time great sandwich cheeses. And who doesn't long for a grilled cheese sandwich just like mom made? But it also has a place in our hearts as a good snack for kids of all ages - try American wrapped around an apple slice, with grapes, or with some crackers or pretzels. Or take advantage of American's gooey melt ability, and add it to your favorite recipe.
Cottage cheese: Unlike other cheeses, Cottage Cheese's curds are never pressed - instead, they're stirred - which gives this treat its soft, creamy texture. Milky and mild in taste, Cottage Cheese can be enjoyed on its own or as part of a salad. To mix it up a bit, add some peaches, pineapple, berries or citrus fruit. Try it as a dip for vegetables or as a spread for herb and fruit breads.
Edam: Originally an imitation of Dutch Edam balls, Argentine "Magnasco" Edam has taken on an identity of its own. It is dryer and harder than Dutch Edam and good on crackers and with red wine.
Reggianito: Similar to Italian Parmigiano Reggiano. Mostly used for grating.
Sardo: Another grating cheese, similar to Italian Romano.
Emmental: Same characteristics as Swiss Emmental.
Cheddar: Same characteristics as English Cheddar.
Blue Castello: A blue-veined cheese with an extremely buttery taste. The surface of the cheese is rind less, thus the entire cheese is edible.
Cream Havarti: Arguably Denmark's most famous cheese, Cream Havarti is a deliciously mild, very creamy, natural, semisoft cheese laced with small to mid-sized holes. Cream Havarti is both a table cheese and a dessert cheese to be served with fruit and wine. Flavored Cream Havarti’s are also available, with ingredients such as dill, jalapeno pepper or garlic and herbs.
Fontina: Danish Fontina is pale yellow and semi-soft with a mild, slightly sweet flavor. A derivative of its Italian namesake and a great table cheese that goes well with a light wine, Fontina is also a good sandwich cheese.
Saga: Original Saga is a cross between blue cheese and brie; a creamy, blue-veined cheese with a white-mold rind. It is very mild for a blue-veined cheese. Saga is an excellent dessert cheese that should be served with fruit and wine. It is also an excellent cheese in salads or as a snack on a cracker. Saga is now made in America as well as in Denmark.
Cheddar: Cheddar cheeses were originally made in England; however, today they are manufactured in quite a number of countries. Fully cured, Cheddar is a hard, natural cheese. The rind, if any, is artificial, most often times wax. The color of the wax used for coating does not indicate a level of quality. Normally, the color of Cheddar ranges from white to pale yellow. Some Cheddar however has a color added, giving the cheese a yellow-orange color. Cheddar is always made from cow's milk and has a slightly crumbly texture if properly cured. If the cheese is too young, the texture is smooth. Cheddar gets a sharper taste the longer it matures. The important thing in purchasing Cheddar is to consider the age of the cheese. Of course, the older it is, the more it will cost.
Cheshire: One of the oldest English cheeses allegedly invented during the 12th century. Cheshire is firm in texture and a bit more crumbly than Cheddar. Cheshire is rich, mellow and slightly salty with an excellent aftertaste; its flavor sharpens as it ages.
Devon Cream: Strawberry's famous partner, Devon Cream has a much wider application than just strawberries and cream. It is thick and rich, and needs to be spooned. This product is served over fruit, hot scones, fish or vegetables.
Double Gloucester: A natural hard cheese. Double Gloucester has a mild and rich flavor with a smooth texture and a creamy yellow color. This cheese is excellent with fruit and beer.
Leicester: A natural hard cheese. Leicester has a rich, mild flavor with a flaky texture and a deep orange color. This cheese is excellent with fruit and beer.
Stilton: Historically referred to as "The King Of Cheeses," Stilton is a blue-mold cheese with a rich and mellow flavor and a piquant aftertaste. It has narrow blue-green veins and a wrinkled rind which is not edible. Stilton is milder than Roquefort or Gorgonzola and is equally excellent for crumbling over salads or as a dessert cheese served with a Port Wine.
Wensleydale: Traditionally blue, because the cheese is lightly pressed, allowing the mold to penetrate. And blue Wensleydales are still available. But today it is usually a creamy white, crumbly cheese, with a fine curd and minimal texturing, thus a high moisture content. White Wensleydale is usually eaten young, at about a month old. Wensleydale is produced in Cheshire.
Finlandia Swiss: Similar characteristics to Switzerland Emmental. Aged over 100 days, it is sharp, rind less and delicious.
Lappi: Lappi is a semisoft, semisweet cheese that slices easily and is excellent in recipes and for melting. It comes from Finland's Lapland region.
Turunmaa: Similar to Danish Cream Havarti, Turunmaa is a deliciously mild, very creamy, natural, semisoft cheese laced with small to mid-sized holes. Like Cream Havarti, it is both a table cheese and a breakfast cheese to be served with fruit and bread.
Beaufort: A member of the Alpine Gruyere family. White/pale yellow pressed cow's milk cheese that evokes the taste of summer flowers.
Bleu d'Auvergne: A tart blue cheese from Central France that is great when melted to use as pasta seasoning.
Boursin®: Boursin®cheeses are 100% natural, with no additives, gums or preservatives, and are made with the finest ingredients. Experience Boursin® on a crispy baguette or cracker accompanied by a dry red or white wine. Available in Garlic & Fine Herbs and Pepper varieties, Boursin® is a traditional favorite for hors d'oeuvres, appetizers and salads. It also brings a special flavor to meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables.
Brébis: A melt-in-your-mouth ewe's milk cheese from the mountains that separate France from Spain.
Brie: Brie is the best known French cheese and is aptly nicknamed "The Queen Of Cheeses". Several hundred years ago, Brie was one of the tributes which the subjects had to pay to the French kings. In France, Brie is very different from the cheese exported to the United States. "Real" French Brie is unstabilized and is at its peak of flavor when the surface turns slightly brown. As long as the cheese is still pure white, the cheese is not mature. Cutting unstabilized Brie before it is ripe will stop the maturing process and the cheese will never develop properly. Exported Brie, however, is stabilized and never matures. Stabilized Brie has a much longer shelf life and is not susceptible to bacteriological infections. Brie, one of the great dessert cheeses, comes as either a 1 or 2 kilogram wheel, and is packaged in a wooden box. In order to fully enjoy the experience, Brie must be served at room temperature.
Brillat Saverin: A fabulous double cream cheese that wreaks havoc with your diet (and you won't even care.)
Camembert: Another soft-ripened white mold cheese from France, Camembert, like Brie, is soft and creamy with an edible crust. A wheel of Camembert, however, is only 8 ounces and comes in its own wooden box.
Cantal Entre Deux: Literal translation: between two, does not refer to rocks, but rather to the age: not young, not old, but... great-tasting.
Chevres: These cheeses are made from goat's milk. They come in many sizes and shapes such as round patties, log-shapes, drum-shapes, pyramids, round loaves, long loaves, etc.; their textures vary from soft, but firm like cream cheese, to extremely hard. Chevres are excellent dessert cheeses, often served as snacks, or with before dinner drinks. Goat cheese is often served as an ingredient in many fine dishes.
Chabichou de Poitou: A delicate, slightly sweet tasting goat milk cheese from the area that is known for its goats.
Claudel • Fleurs de France • Joan of Arc: Internationally famous for its sublime texture and subtle taste, French brie is the centerpiece of elegant entertaining. The master cheesemakers of these leading imported brands use century-old craftsmanship that makes authentic French brie an incomparable pleasure.
Comte: Comte is a natural, hard cheese with similar characteristics to Switzerland Gruyere. France's favorite cheese (over 37000 tons produced each year). Taste its supple, slightly nutty meat, and you'll see why.
Coulommiers: Similar to Camembert, a wheel of Coulommiers is slightly larger (12 ounces) and the cheese has a nuttier flavor with a thicker crust.
Couturier Goat Cheeses: Couturier goat cheeses come in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavors-from the 4oz log blended with roasted garlic and fine herbs to the slightly piquant four mixed peppers. These cheeses are always a perfect stand alone for a party platter, as an appetizer on crispy French baguette, or as an ingredient in your favorite salad or quiche recipe.
Crottin de Chavignol: A robust goat's milk cheese that shrinks as it dries.
Emmenthal: The generic name for Swiss cheese.
Epoisses: Napoleon's favorite cheese, washed down with marc de Bourgogne during the maturation process.
Langres: Made in eastern France, this cheese is often served with a dash of champagne poured into the well on the top of the cheese.
Ligueil Cheeses: The Ligueil range of cheese is made from 100% cow's milk. You will find endless uses for the St Paulin, Raclette and fine butter products produced under this label. Try the Raclette melted on steamed root vegetables with cornichon (gherkins) and French bread or with thin slices of jambon (ham). You're sure to ask for more.
Livarot: One of France's oldest, a wonderful cheese named after a village in Normandy and whose nickname is the Colonel because it is bound with five strips of paper that look like a Colonel's stripes. Originally, the stripes were made of natural rush harvested from the edge of ponds. This is a strong cheese with lots of flavor (beefy, nutty) and a pungent aroma. (If it has a smell of ammonia, it is past its prime). Livarot is made from cow's milk but has only a 40% fat content. It is naturally white but colored orangey-red with a tincture from a South American tree called the roucou. It has a soft washed rind, is round with a 12 cm diameter and is 5 cm thick. Livarot goes great with a big red wine as well as with apple cider. Try it with bread and/or fruit, especially apples and pears.
Mimolette: A semi-hard cow's milk cheese produced in Flanders and Normandy. It comes in spheres of about 7-8 pounds; it has an orange rind and interior. A firm texture with some small holes and a mild favor.
Morbier: Named for a little farm town in France, this semisoft cow's cheese was originally made with left over cheese for personal consumption by the cheesemakers. At the end of the day the cheesemaker would take leftover curd from making Gruyère de Comté and press it into a mold. To keep it from drying out and to keep the insects away, he would top it off with a little ash. In the morning he would add any additional curd on top of the ash and you had Morbier. Today they make it from a single batch of mild and add a harmless vegetable product to give it the same appearance. It measures 15 - 18 inches in diameter, about 3 inches in height, weighs about 20 lbs., and has a minimum fat content of 45%.
Munster: French Munster is one of the few cheeses which ripen from the inside out. Munster is dark yellow with a strong flavor. It should be served with dark bread and beer. French Munster has nothing in common with Domestic Munster, which is a white, mild cheese.
Pélardon: A goat's milk cheese with almost no rind, and just the right balance between tart and salty.
Picodon: In Occitan, the word picodon means spicy, and that's exactly what this goat's milk cheese is.
Pont L'Eveque: This semisoft, soft-ripened cheese from the Normandy region has a pronounced flavor, although its taste is not as strong as its smell. It has a firm body, yellow color and an edible crust. The crust has ridges because it is cured on straw mats. Pont L'Eveque is an excellent dessert cheese that goes very well with a robust wine.
Pont l'Eveque: This washed-rind cheese from Normandy has a slightly sweet after-taste, and goes well with cider.
Pouligny-Saint-Pierre: An unpasteurized goat's cheese from Berry, it is soft to hard depending on the age. Also depending on age its color runs from a very white, creamy and fragile to a hard dry interior surrounded by a dark beige crust. All have a piquant flavor and goatee aroma.
Reblochon: From the French Alps, Reblochon is a semisoft, pale yellow, creamy cheese with a nutty flavor. Reblochon is a dessert cheese that goes well with red wine.
Roquefort: The most famous blue-mold cheese in the world, authentic Roquefort comes from caves near the Spanish border and is made from sheep's milk. Roquefort is sharp, peppery, piquant and distinct. The blue mold is added to the curd by mixing it with powdered bread containing the Pennicillium Roqueforti mold. The French eat Roquefort as a dessert cheese, although most Americans prefer it in salads or dips.
Saint-Marcellin: A soft, rind less cow's milk cheese from Dauphine, it is disk shaped wrapped in chestnut leaves and dipped in wine or eau-de-vie. It typically has a beige crust with blue mold and a soft beige creamy interior. It has an intensely rustic, nutty, fruity flavor.
Sainte-Maure Ash: The first time you try cutting into this cheese, you will notice a stick in the middle of it. It looks like a cheese Popsicle. It turns out to be a straw and not a stick. This log-shaped goat cheese is from an area in France called the Touraine and the straw is used to reinforce the crumbly texture. It's made from goats' milk (45% fat) and is soft with a natural rind. The Sainte-Maure is coated with a wood ash and tasted smooth and rich. You can eat it plain or also add it to mixed greens salads.
Saint-Nectaire: A semi-soft cow's milk cheese, disk shaped from Auvergne. It has a smooth reddish rind, ivory to straw colored interior, soft and supple texture. It is an earthy cheese with a fruity flavor and a grassy aroma.
Saint-Paulin: St. Paulin (also known as Port Salut, a licensed name) is a mild and very pleasing dessert or table cheese originally made by Trappist Monks. St. Paulin is creamy and butter-like, yet firms enough for slicing. Genuine Port Salut has an edible, orange rind. However, beware imitations that use a plastic, inedible rind. St. Paulin goes well with fruit and light wine.
Société Roquefort: The "King of the Blues"! There's only one Roquefort - it bears its very own delimited appellation, and must be made of 100% sheep's milk (most blue cheeses are made of cow's milk). Société, the world's leading Roquefort, is especially flavorful in salads, or as a complement to meat, crêpes and soufflés. Try Roquefort with a sweet French wine.
Soignon Goat Cheeses: Soignon goat cheeses are available in three types: fresh, soft ripened and aged. Soignon is the brand of choice of top chefs and sophisticated consumers worldwide. The fresh Soignon Spread is extra creamy and mild and will convert almost any palate to the pleasures of goat cheese. Gourmets often chose the ripened Soignon Buche, St Maure or Goat Brie that has that complex savor that is fine French Chèvre. The most robust goat cheeses of the Soignon range are the aged Chaubier and Tomme de Chèvre which are both firm enough to be sliced or grated for use in sandwiches, savory baked goods and sauces. Try one of these cheeses with a full bodied red wine.
Tomme de Chevre: The word tomme can be roughly translated by "cheese". This goat cheese is a semi-hard pressed cheese that literally melts in your mouth.
Tomme de Savoie: A semi firm, dish shaped cow's milk cheese from Savoie in the French Alps. It has a distinct thick gray-brown rind with a beige or straw colored paste. It has a slightly salty, mild but savory taste with an aroma reminiscent of a cheese cellar.
Valbreso French Feta: Made from 100% sheep's milk from the high mountain pastures of southeast France. This Mediterranean favorite with its rich and tangy taste is ideal crumbled or cut into small cubes in Mediterranean-style salads, or with a wide variety of fresh vegetables.
Emmental: Same characteristics as Swiss Emmental.
Jermi Tortes: Jermi tortes are handmade, with alternating layers of cheese and exquisite fillings such as Norwegian Salmon, Walnut, French Herbs, etc. Jermi Tortes are dessert cheeses, excellent on fine bread or crackers.
Limburger: A soft-ripened cheese famous for its pungent odor, Limburger is a strong cheese that goes well with red wine or beer. Limburger has a thin crust, a soft texture, and is nearly white inside. During the two-month curing process, the cheese is constantly brushed with brine until it has absorbed all salt.
Munster: See French Munster.
Tilsit: A natural hard cheese, German Tilsit has a stronger flavor than its Scandinavian cousins. It has tiny hole formation and a firm texture suitable for slicing. Tilsit is an excellent sandwich cheese, good with robust wine or beer.
Feta: Genuine Greek Feta is made from sheep's milk, with a distinct strong, slightly acidic flavor. Feta is crumbly in texture and white in color. Feta is traditionally sold in glass jars, although modern packaging techniques have become more commonplace. Feta needs to be covered in brine at all times otherwise it will dry out and mold fast and needs to be refrigerated at all times. Feta is a true eating cheese, although most Americans think of it as a salad topping.
Kasseri: Pale yellow in color, with a mild buttery flavor and a springy, kneaded texture. Kasseri is a versatile, multi-purpose cheese made from sheep's milk.
Kefalotyri: This hard, pale, golden yellow cheese has a tinge flavor and a sharp aroma reminiscent of Italian Pecorino Romano. Harder and saltier than Kasseri, Kefalotyri is generally served grated over cooked dishes.
Mizithra: A cheese made from whey of Feta and Kefalotyri, Mizithra is available both fresh and aged. Fresh Mizithra is soft, similar to cottage cheese. Aged Mizithra is shaped like an ostrich egg, and is firm and pungent, rather like Italian Ricotta Salata. The aged variety makes an excellent grating cheese.
Edam: Edam is a semisoft to hard natural cheese, depending on age. Edam is similar in flavor to Gouda, but slightly dryer in texture and less creamy. Edam is traditionally shaped into 2 or 4 pound balls coated in red, yellow or black wax. Because of its shape and size, Edam makes an excellent gift basket centerpiece.
Gouda: Gouda is a semisoft to hard natural cheese, depending on age. It is pale yellow and slightly sweet and nutty. Gouda is considered to be one of the world's great cheeses. It is both a table cheese and a dessert cheese, excellent with fruit and wine.
Leyden: Leyden is a part-skim cheese laced with caraway or cumin seeds. It is semisoft to hard and bland in flavor. Its seeds give Leyden most of its taste.
Maasdam: Holland's answer to Jarlsberg, marketed under brand names such as Leerdammer, Westberg, etc.
Smoked Gouda: Smoked slowly in ancient brick ovens over smoldering hickory chip embers, this sausage shaped cheese is perfect for impromptu picnics, party platters or midnight snacks. Sensational with beer, this hardy cheese has an edible brown rind and a creamy, yellow interior.
Baylough: A mixed herd of Fresians and distinctive Red and White Dutch cows provides the full-cream milk for Baylough, a hard-pressed waxed cheese which can mature for many months. Varieties: Oak-smoked, Garlic and Herbs, Fresh Garlic.
Coolea: The hills of Coolea give their name to the Williams family's acclaimed raw milk gouda-style cheese. Young, mild Coolea is 6-8 weeks old; some is flavored with nettles or herbs and garlic. Long-matured Coolea, piquant with a lingering finish, is becoming more and more sought-after.
Dunbarra: A soft cheese with an edible white rind, firmer than Brie yet distinctively creamy. Hand-made by Dubliner Barra McFeely, this new cheese has already won three first prizes.
Gubbeen: Gubbeen's gentle flavors reflect the great care taken by Tom and Gina Ferguson in farming their herd of cows and curing the cheese. This is a fresh tasting, pliant textured cheese with a peach pink washed rind.
Knockalara: Knockalara is a fresh feta-style cheese made on the Waterford farm by Wolfgang and Agnes Schliebitz. Its light tang marries beautifully with fruity olive oil, so it's ideal in salads. Knockalara comes either plain or preserved in herb-flavored olive oil.
Orla: On the Manch estate in Co Cork, Iris Diebrok and Oliver Jungwirth farm an organic flock of dairy sheep. Iris uses the milk for her award-winning semi-hard rind-washed cheese. Orla is matured for 2-6 months.
Asiago: One bite of Asiago will create images in your head of a warm, twilight-lit evening on the Italian countryside. It is an inspiring cheese. It ranges in flavor from mild and buttery when it's young (look for the clear or white wax coating) to an intense, semi-sharp when it's aged (in the black coating). Flavorfully and savory, Asiago can add something special to just about any dish. Try it grated over pastas, potatoes, rice and salads, or melted in quesadillas and pizza.
Bel Paese: A semisoft cheese, Bel Paese is very similar to French St. Paulin.
Fontal: Fontal is similar to Fontina Val d'Aosta, and in fact was called Fontina until the milk farmers of Val d'Aostaobtained exclusive rights to the name in 1951.
Fontina Val d'Aosta: Genuine Fontina comes from the Val d'Aosta region of Italy, in the Alps near the French and Swiss borders. One of the few cheeses imported into America that is made from raw (unpasteurized) milk, it is a smooth, straw-colored cheese with a brown rind. Fontina has a delicate, nutty, buttery sweet flavor. Fontina is the primary ingredient in Italian fonduta and is a pristine table or dessert cheese.
Gorgonzola: A blue-veined cheese made of cow's milk, Gorgonzola is a soft table cheese. It is an antique cheese of great popular tradition with a compact, rough, hard, reddish crust and a firm but mellow paste interior which melts on the tongue. Its color ranges from white to straw-yellow with an unmistakable marbled green or bluish-green mold. The taste ranges from mild to sharp, depending on age. Gorgonzola is also excellent in salads and dips.
Grana: This is the generic name for Parmigiano Reggiano-type cheeses.
Mascarpone: This cheese is virtually solidified cream, mildly coagulated and whipped into a velvety consistency. It hails from the Lombardy region and is served with fresh fruit or sweetened with sugar and used as a pastry ingredient, such as for Tiramisu.
Mozzarella di Bufala: "Buffalo" Mozzarella is made in the South of Italy from a mixture of water buffalo and cow's milk. This cheese is pure white, hand-formed into small balls. It is soft and rubbery and stored in whey brine. It is best served with sliced tomatoes and fresh basil, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
Parmigiano Reggiano: A very hard natural cheese, a full wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano weighs 75 lbs. and must be cut by a saw. Parmigiano Reggiano's flavor is unmistakably piquant and true cheese connoisseurs know when they are served an inferior imitation. Primarily a grating cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano is a great topping for soups, pasta dishes, veal, chicken, or salads. Buy this cheese as a wedge and grate it yourself so you know you are getting the real thing.
Provolone: Provolone has a slightly smoky flavor and is mellow and compact with a smooth, paste-like texture. Provolone has an inedible crust and has strings to hang from rafters. Aged long enough, Provolone can be grated. However, it is better known as a table or sandwich cheese.
Ricotta: Ricotta is made from whey collected from making other cheeses and re-cooked. It is white, creamy and mild and is primarily used as an ingredient in lasagna.
Ricotta Salata: When fresh Ricotta goes through its natural aging process, a hard, pungent cheese suitable for eating or grating results. Like fresh Ricotta, Ricotta Salata is almost white in color.
Romano: A very hard cheese made from part-skim sheep's (Pecorino), goat's (Caprino) or cow's (Vecchino) milk. Milder than Parmigiano Reggiano, it is a very popular grating cheese that sharpens as it matures.
Taleggio: This semisoft, uncooked cheese from the region around Bergamo gains flavor and an accompanying odor as the cheese ages. The crust is pinkish-gray and the paste is white, supple and fruity. Taleggio is an excellent dessert cheese.
Gjetost: Gjetost (pronounced "Yay-Toast") is a hard cheese made from boiled goat's milk whey either blended with cow's milk or from 100% goat's milk. This cheese has a sweetish caramel-like taste and is dark brown in color. Gjetostis is a non-perishable dessert cheese that must be sliced paper-thin and placed on Norwegian flatbread. Norwegian children eat Gjetost in place of candy.
Jarlsberg: The world's most famous "Baby Swiss", Jarlsberg has the consistency, texture and hole formation of Swiss Emmental, but its flavor is more nut-like and sweeter. A full wheel of Jarlsberg weighs about 20 lbs., one tenth the weight of a wheel of Emmental. Jarlsberg is an excellent all-around performer that can be used as a table cheese, dessert cheese or sandwich cheese. Serve it with wine, beer or aquavit.
Cabrales: A renowned blue cheese from Northern Spain, Cabrales is made from blended cow's, goat's and sheep's milk. It is matured in naturally-formed caves and has a creamy texture, a complex flavor and a powerful bouquet.
Garrotxa: A semisoft cheese made from pasteurized goat's milk in Catalonia. It comes in grey-rimed felt textured disks; it has a bone white interior. It has a mild flavor - nutty with herbal hints.
Iberico: A hard, oily cheese made from blended cow's, goat's and sheep's milk. It is mild yet tasty, aromatic and very popular. Good for cooking and for eating, it goes well with Spanish red wines.
Mahon: An aged cheese produced from cow's milk on Minorca, the outermost of the three Spanish Balearic Islands. Ripened for six months to two years the eight inch squares weighing 5 to 6 pounds, it is buttery sharp, slightly salty with a sweet and nutty aroma.
Manchego: This historic cheese is produced in the La Mancha region from pasteurized sheep's milk. It has a black, gray or buff colored rind with a crosshatch pattern, the interior ranges from stark white to yellowish, depending on age. It has an even distribution of holes and a mild, slightly briny, nutty flavor.
Roncal: A hard cheese from Navarre produced from sheep's milk and aged for a minimum of three months. It has hard beige to gray rind with beige interior which turns to amber with age. It has a rich, olive, nutty flavor.
Tetilla: A semisoft cheese produced from cow's milk in the Galicia region, it comes in squat cone shaped like a woman's breast (hence the name) about five inches in diameter. It has a greenish beige rind and a white interior. It has a mild and tangy flavor.
Tronchon: A semisoft cheese made from blended cow's, goat's and sheep's milk. It comes in rindless wheels with a dimple on top, a by-product of the manufacturing process. The interior is bone white and has many small holes.
Fontina: See Danish Fontina.
Graddost: Sweden's most popular cheese, Graddost is deliciously mild and very creamy. It is laced with small to mid-sized holes and makes an excellent dessert cheese to be served with fruit and wine.
Herrgard: Sweden's second most popular cheese, Herrgard comes in large wheels and has a few small holes. It has similar characteristics to Cheddar and is pale yellow in color.
Appenzeller: A natural, hard cheese that is similar to Emmental, although with smaller and fewer holes. It is cured in white wine and spices that give it a unique piquant flavor.
Emmental: More commonly referred to as "Swiss Cheese", Emmental is imitated by many cheese producing countries. Emmental is considered to be one of the most difficult cheeses to successfully manufacture because of its complicated, hole-forming fermentation process. Emmental can be used as a table cheese, dessert cheese or sandwich cheese.
Gruyere: Famous for its use in Swiss Fondue, Gruyere is a hard cheese that is similar to Emmental but with smaller hole formation. Its texture is chewy and it develops small cracks as it ages. In addition to its role as a Fondue cheese, Gruyere is also an excellent sandwich cheese that melts evenly.
Raclette: A hard cheese with a subtle flavor, good aftertaste and firm texture. Raclette is pale yellow inside an inedible crust. Raclette is famous for a Swiss dish made by melting thin slices over broiled potatoes.
Sap Sago: A tiny, green, 2 ounce cheese wrapped in foil, Sap Sago is a very hard grating cheese with a sharp flavor and a pungent aroma due to the use of a powder made from clover leaves added to the cheese during manufacture. Sap Sago is not an eating cheese, but is good as a food topping and in cooking.
Matching food and wine is one of most difficult and subjective things to get right. Using up the bottle of red with a cheese selection may seem an easy option but is seldom successful. With the variety of cheeses almost matching that of wines a little planning is necessary - hence this list. Does a red go well with cheese? Not from my findings. It appears white wine comes out on top with Sauvignon Blanc the most frequently mentioned grape type.
Cheese and champagne are a classic combination. You don't normally want to eat a whole meal with champagne - you want to savor the fine wine and enjoy its texture and flavor. Cheese is a good thing to nibble at while you do so - to complement the flavor.
If there is a cheese that you are trying to pair with wine that is not listed here, a good rule of thumb to follow is to combine mild cheeses with delicate wines and strong cheeses with robust wines.
Amarelo - Portuguese goat and sheep`s milk cheese. A chilled tawny port should be superb.
Asiago - Italian cow`s milk cheese. Try with an Italian Chardonnay.
Azeitao - A Sheep`s milk cheese from just South of Lisbon. Try with a Portuguese red wine.
Banon - See Goats Cheese.
Bougon - A goat`s milk Camembert. See Goats Cheese.
Boursin - A fresh and tangy Sauvignon from New Zealand or the Loire.
Boucheron - See Goats Cheese.
Brie & Camembert - A difficult one as the classical tang of ammonia often jars nastily with wine. Try a red from the South of France - Fitou or Corbieres.
Caerphilly - I suggest a crisp dry English wine with this hard cheese. Or try an Albarino (Portuguese white), a Spanish Red or Sauvignon Blanc.
Cheddar - Buy the best you can afford and revel in the flavor combinations with a Sauvignon Blanc for a white or a good claret, Rhone, or Rhone styled wine from California or Australia.
Cheshire - Again a Sauvignon Blanc would be my first choice but for a red consider a Cabernet based wine from the New World.
Chevre Brie - A goats' cheese brie.
Cimbro - Cow`s milk cheese from north of Verona, Italy. Amarone della Valpolicella Classico is the wine to try.
Double Gloucester - A good quality tawny port makes a good pairing also look at Montepulciano d`Abruzzo.
Edam - Any Cabernet or Merlot based wine from Bordeaux and surrounds works very well.
Emmental - Sauvignon Blanc again goes very well try also a Californian Zinfandel or from Italy a Primitivo.
Evora - From East of Lisbon, Portugal. Sheep`s milk cheese. If you can find it, drink a local wine Vila Santa.
Feta - A full dry wine such as an Alsace Riesling.
Goats Cheese - A catch all category for so many different cheeses - to match try a good Rhone Red or a Sauvignon Blanc. Classic taste combinations.
Gorgonzola - A sweet wine is needed here. Look into getting a German or Austrian Trockenbeerenauslese or a Hungarian Tokaji.
Gouda - Definitely red wine country here. Try a new World Merlot or Zinfandel.
Gruyere - Again a Sauvignon Blanc or for a red wine an Australian Shiraz, a New World Sangiovese or a Chianti.
Jarlsberg - A Merlot or Zinfandel here I feel.
Lancashire - Superb with a tawny port or a Sauternes/Barsac. Better I think with Chianti.
Le Chevrot - A superb goat's cheese. See Goats Cheese.
Livarot - Chardonnay or a Pinot Gris for this semi-soft cheese.
Manchego - Spanish red for Spanish cheese or open that aging claret.
Munster - Try a Gewurztraminer from Alsace or a cheaper version from Chile or New Zealand if you can find one.
Mozzarella - Do people eat this on its own? Try with a crisp white like a Cotes du Duras or Bergerac or Beaujolais or an Old Vines Zinfandel for a red.
Parmesan - If eaten on its own try with a Spanish Cava.
Picos de Europa - Northern Spanish cheese try with high acidity/high tannin red wine, Italian Primativo, Zinfandel or certain Merlots.
Pont l`Eveque - White Bordeaux, Chardonnay from anywhere or try a white Rioja.
Port Salut - A good quality Cotes du Rhone or similar blend works well as does a lighter style Italian red such as a Bardolino.
Red Leicester - Pick a nice Rioja or a full and rich Australian Shiraz.
Roquefort & Stilton - The classic combination is with a Sauterne, but try also with any botrytis affected wine (Australian Semillon for example) or cheaper sweet wines from anywhere really. Aged tawny port is also delicious.
Sao Jorge - Full flavored unpasteurized cow`s milk cheese from the Azores. Accompany with a LBV Port.
Wensleydale - A sweeter wine needed here like a German Spatlese or a late picked Muscat from Australia.
How To Serve With Ease:
Cheese is fantastically versatile. It's one of the few foods that, cooked or uncooked, is welcome at any meal or for any snack or appetizer. There is nothing complicated about serving it either, but the following tips are helpful to keep in mind:
Natural ripened cheese tastes best when served at room temperature. Let stand outside of the refrigerator, covered, 30 minutes to an hour before serving.
Moving a cheese back and forth from refrigerator to table robs it of moisture and hastens spoilage.
If you have a piece of cheese too large to eat all at once, cut off only what you can eat and bring to room temperature. Leave the remainder tightly wrapped in refrigerator.
When offering an assortment of cheese, choose three to five with different flavors and textures. It's a nice idea to label them.
Cubes, stick and squares are easy-to-serve pieces of cheese. For convenience, allow your family and friends to cut directly from a wedge or chunk.
Proper storage of cheese will ensure that the original flavor, appearance and quality are maintained. Generally, unopened cheese products stored in the refrigerator will maintain a good quality even beyond the freshness date stamped on many packages. However, once opened, the following guidelines are suggested:
Natural Cheese and Pasteurized Process Cheese will remain fresh approximately 4 to 8 weeks in the refrigerator. Wrap cheese tightly to prevent surface drying.
Fresh Cheeses such as Cottage, Cream, and Neufchatel are more perishable because they have higher water content than hard cheeses. Use these cheeses within two weeks and keep them clean, cold, and uncovered.
Grated Cheeses keep well stored in a cool, dry-place away from high humidity and moisture. Refrigeration is not essential but may prolong the life when tightly sealed.
Pasteurized Process Cheese Products packaged in squeeze containers and aerosol cans are made to remain room temperature and may not dispense properly when cold.
Shredded Cheeses are more susceptible to mold and moisture loss because they have more exposed surfaces. Therefore, re-wrap what remains and plan to use it within a few days.
Aromatic Cheeses such as Limburger and Blue should be wrapped in plastic film and stored in airtight containers.
If cheese develops mold, simply cut off approximately 1/4 inch from each affected side. The remaining cheese is fine but should be used within the week.
Tips On How To Freeze:
Most natural cheeses can be successfully frozen for 6 to 8 weeks. Best results can be achieved with the following facts in mind:
Freeze in pieces of one pound or less
Over wrap cheese to be airtight and moisture proof
Freeze quickly and store at O°F
Label and date the package
Thaw cheese in the refrigerator
Use within a few days after thawing
Hard natural cheeses freeze better than soft cheeses. Freezing changes the texture of cheese, making semi- soft and hard cheeses more crumbly and causing soft cheeses to separate slightly. Thawed cheese is best used in cooked dishes. The flavor and nutritional value remain stable.