A Guide To The Different Kinds Of Cheese
Whether you like it grilled in a sandwich, topping a cracker, cooked in a casserole or enjoyed with wine, cheese has been a staple of the human diet since before recorded history.
There are hundreds of types of cheese, most produced by the curdling of milk through exposure to a bacterial culture that creates acid, then the addition of rennet, an enzyme derived from the stomach lining of a cow, goat, sheep or buffalo.
The following are some of the most popular cheeses.
- One of the most popular cheeses in the world, Gouda is a semi-hard cheese made from cow's milk, and named after a town in Holland. Gouda starts off with a mild taste, but as the cheese ages, the flavor becomes stronger. A soak in a brine solution during production of the cheese produces the distinctive taste.
- It is delicious as a snack on its own, cooked in pasta or meat dishes, or sliced in a salad. Gouda costs approximately $10 to $20 per pound, depending on variety and age.
- Actually made in the United States, Swiss cheese is similar to Swiss Emmental or Gruyere cheeses. A hard cheese, it is mild tasting, with a somewhat sweet, nutty flavor. Carbon dioxide bubbles released during production cause the distinctive holes. Generally, the larger the holes, the stronger the flavor.
- Swiss is excellent on sandwiches, enjoyed with fruit, or used on a cheese platter. There are several varieties of Swiss cheese, including smoked and baby. Swiss cheese generally costs around $10 per pound.
- There are several varieties of cheddar cheese, which is a cow's milk, hard cheese named for the English village of Cheddar. Cheddar has been enjoyed since at least the 12th century. Often colored orange with annatto, a plant-based coloring, aged cheddar has a sharp, pungent flavor, but also is available in milder varieties.
- Grated cheddar is a staple for nachos, chili and tacos, while sliced cheddar is perfect on a burger, enjoyed on crackers or cooked in casseroles. You can find sharp cheddar for approximately $8 to $12 per pound.
- The best-known French cheese, Brie is a soft cow's cheese named after the Brie region of France. Commonly covered with a white moldy rind, Brie has a pungent flavor with a hint of ammonia. You can also buy Brie flavored with herbs.
- Usually enjoyed as a tasty accompaniment to wine and fruit, Brie is also delicious baked. For best taste, eat at room temperature. Depending on brand and variety, a pound of Brie can cost anywhere between $15 and $20.
- Feta is a semi-hard Greek curd cheese traditionally made with goat's milk, but often made with cow's milk for export. Feta is salted and cured in brine, giving it a high salt content and a tangy flavor.
- Try feta crumbled over a salad, or as an ingredient in traditional Greek dishes such as spanakopita. You can also buy feta flavored with herbs or tomatoes. A pound of feta costs around $10.
- A general term, blue or bleu cheese is any one of several cow, sheep or goat's milk cheeses that have had cultures of the Penicillium mold added, giving the cheese its characteristic blue-green veins and distinctive sharp smell and taste.
- Roquefort, Stilton and Gorgonzola are all varieties of blue cheese. It is an excellent cheese for salad dressings, as well as melting on meat or snacking. Depending on the variety, you can expect to pay $15 to $20 for blue cheese.
- An Italian cheese that is semi-soft, the finest mozzarella is made from the milk of water buffalo, but more commonly it is made with cow's milk. Regular mozzarella has a mild flavor and elastic texture, while fresh mozzarella is sweeter in taste, and usually packed in water or whey.
- Stretched and kneaded like bread during its production, mozzarella develops a delicate consistency. It is a staple of Italian cooking, used in pasta dishes, pizza and salads. A pound of cow's milk mozzarella usually costs less than $10.
- Muenster is an American cheese made from cow's milk. It has a very mild flavor and a smooth, soft texture. As the cheese ages, the flavor becomes stronger, though most Muenster is sold before that happens.
- Muenster melts well, making it perfect for hot sandwiches or burgers. Used in many appetizers, Muenster is also delicious served with wine. It is generally less than $10 per pound.
- Not pressed to remove the whey, cottage cheese is a cow's milk cheese with a loose, soft texture, and individual curds. It is eaten fresh, unlike most firm cheeses that are aged.
- Often thought of as an American cheese though it has been eaten since ancient times, the term "cottage cheese" was first used in the 1800's in reference to the small homes where it was commonly made.
- Usually eaten with fruit or on its own, cottage cheese can also substitute for ricotta cheese when cooking dishes such as lasagna. A 16-ounce container of cottage cheese is usually under $5.
- Parmesan is the English spelling of the Italian cheese called Parmigiano-Reggiano. It is a cow's milk cheese with a hard texture, and is aged for a year or more. Salted in brine, good quality Parmesan has a sharp, nutty taste.
- Parmesan is often grated over pasta dishes and used in soups and salads. For the best taste, buy chunk Parmesan and grate it yourself as needed. Depending on quality, a pound of solid Parmesan will cost between $10 and $20.
- No matter what your cooking need, there is a cheese that will suit your purposes.