"Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can? "
- Sun Tzu
Just like the majority of us, I grew up only knowing about cheese slices. But as I entered the food industry I got familiarized with cheddar and gouda, and the occasional parmesan on pasta and mozzarella on pizza. What added to my knowledge were the TV shows that I would always watch to keep myself updated about the latest cheese findings. Well, after all the books that I have gone through I realized that almost all countries have their kind of cheese. There is a long list of classifying factors which can help cheese categories.
Generally cheese is classified depending on the milk source, time of aging, processing methods , fat content, dairy content, texture, country of origin and other characteristics. It can also be either conventional or artisanal, fresh or aged, creamy or firm, skimmed or whole, with or without rinds and can be white, yellow, orange or blue.
So, let’s have a look at the main categories of cheese to get at least the basic understanding.
1) Fresh cheese
One of the most basic in the cheese family. Fresh cheese is not aged, it is milk curdled and drained, and is made with little processing methods. It has a short shelf life and hence needs to be consumed as soon as it is made. Since it doesn’t have any rind it looks the same inside and out. Fresh cheese has high moisture content, giving it a mousse like texture. It can also be stringy or firm and crumbly.
2) Semi-soft cheese
Semi-soft cheese is made from lightly pressed curd which gives it a rubbery, elastic texture. Once the cheese is formed, it is rinsed and brushed with a solution of salty water containing bacteria, encouraging molds to appear. The leather-like rind that is attracted by the molds can be grey, white or even brown.
The rinds which are thin and semi formed are usually mild and buttery as compared to the ones with a thicker rind which have a denser texture and taste.
Semi-soft cheeses, in general, are ideal for snacks, desserts, sandwiches and other recipes in which cheese needs to be melted.
3. Semi-hard cheese
Semi-hard cheeses are made from curds that are heated, pressed, molded and left to ferment for two quarters plus, or even longer. These cheeses have less moisture and tend to have holes. The rinds of semi-hard cheeses can be natural, wax or made of cloth.
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4. Hard cheese
Hard cheese is the most complex and firmest in the cheese family. It is pressed for hours and even for weeks to make the curd more compact and remove the whey. The way of preparation leads to lesser water content. Hard cheese is packed into molds and stored for a long tenure.
5. Blue cheese
One Cheese you cannot miss is blue cheese. As the name suggests, this type of cheese has blue, blue-gray or blue green spots or veins because of mold. Blue cheese contains Penicillium cultures that allows these molds to form and grow within the cheese, giving it a unique flavor and distinct smell. Blue cheese generally tends to have a sharp and salty flavor and not everybody has a taste for it.
So, as most of us a sitting back home , I think it’s a good time to develop the skill for tasting cheese, undoubtedly it’s a highly paid profession.