Cheese, one of the few food items in the world that people from all classes of life enjoy. No matter what status you have in life, there’s a cheese out there that’s for you (unless of course, you have an allergy or intolerance to dairy products). Cheese is made from separating the milk solids (curds) from the milk liquids (whey). Cheese can be made from the milk of any mammal, but the most commonly used milk comes from cows, goats, sheep, or buffalo, with cow’s milk being the most used type of milk for cheese.
- Cheddar cheese, while usually colored yellow-orange, doesn’t naturally develop that color. Commercial cheddar cheese products with that orange are artificially colored.
- Early makers of Swiss cheese tried to avoid the holes that have become its signature touch.
- In the 17th century, the dying of cheese with an orange color was started to trick people into thinking that the cheese was made with high-quality ingredients.
- Half of the cheese consumed in the world is Gouda.
- The most expensive cheese in the world comes from the milk of a donkey from Siberia. The cost? A whopping $600 a pound.
Cheese Buying Guide
While there are thousands of varieties of cheese, there are seven main types of cheese that you can find on the market, with each type having dozens, if not hundreds of varieties. Here are the seven main types of cheese and what they’re like.
- Fresh Cheeses – These cheeses have no rind and they’re not aged.
- Some examples of famous soft cheeses are ricotta Cheese, Cottage Cheese, and Mozzarella cheese.
- Fresh cheeses have high moisture content and their texture often ranges from wet and mousse-like, crumbly, or stringy.
- Aged Fresh Cheese – These are fresh cheeses that have been allowed to age for a little bit until they form a thin rind.
- Aged fresh cheese examples are the same as fresh cheeses that have been allowed to age.
- Most aged fresh cheese is made from goats’ milk.
- Cheese with Soft White Rind – This type of cheese forms a white crusty mold rind from penicillin candidum. This rind helps the cheese from drying out and helps it develop its flavor.
- Some examples with cheeses with soft white rind are Camembert, Chevre Log, Chaource, and Brie.
- These cheeses have a mild and sweet buttery flavor profile with a hint of mushrooms. When aged further, they can develop a stronger mushroom flavor profile, like mushroom soup made with beef soup.
- Semi-Soft Cheese – The curd from this type of cheese is lightly pressed to remove the whey and create an elastic and rubbery texture. The rind is constantly brushed to remove the mold, leading the rind to become leathery.
- Good examples of semi-soft cheeses are Edam, St. Nectaire, and Port Salut.
- The flavor profile for cheeses like this is mildly sweet and buttery.
- As the rind grows thicker, the earthier the taste of the cheese is.
- Hard Cheeses – These cheeses are pressed for up to a week to remove a majority of the whey and to produce a more compact and dense curd.
- Some of the more popular hard cheeses are Pecorino, Parmesan, Cheddar, and Manchego.
- Hard cheeses are more complex and stronger in flavor than most of the softer cheeses. The surface of the cheese is brushed to remove the molds growing to create a thick and polished rind.
- Some hard cheeses are aged for months, and even years depending on the variety.
- Blue – This cheese can inspire so much hate or so much love as it is an acquired taste. Blue Penicillium mold is added to the milk before the milk has curdled. More mold is added when the curd is cut when it is poured into molds. Holes are poked into the cheese to allow air so that the blue mold can develop.
- The most popular Blue cheeses are Stilton, Roquefort, and Gorgonzola.
- Blue cheeses have a unique spicy, pungent, and creamy taste.
These are just the basic types of cheeses and is in no way a complete resource. The best way to learn about cheeses is to visit your local cheese market or shop and take in all of the scents and tastes of the different cheese varieties.
Cheese Production & Farming in Texas
Texas has no shortage of cheesemakers, making all sorts of cheese from fresh cheeses up to blue. A majority of the artisan cheese you can find in Texas are cheeses made from milk of animals that they have raised themselves, never raising the question of how the milk was sourced. This ensures that the cheese that you get will be free from any antibiotic contamination that can happen with cheeses made with commercially sourced milk.
Another feature, if you will, of artisan cheeses made in the state is that they are often produced with raw organic milk. This means that the milk used hasn’t undergone pasteurization. While using raw milk is almost an impossibility with larger commercial producers, smaller artisans can easily make them due to their batches being smaller and more attention is being given to the process and to the product.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Antibiotic resistance is a big issue nowadays, especially with the rise of many diseases linked to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Cheese can be a source of antibiotic resistance as studies have shown that a significant portion of antibiotics used on livestock are actually released to the milk that they produce. This milk, when made into cheese, can pass on these antibiotics to the consumer. This, coupled with antibiotics that many commercial cheese producers add to the surface of their products to prevent mold growth can actually lead to antibiotic resistance.
The solution? Pick cheeses that are made from locally sourced and antibiotic-free milk. In many European countries, high-end cheeses have very strict requirements with the sourcing of their milk, this is being followed by a lot of local producers to provide cheeses that don’t skimp on quality, taste, and safety.
Commercial cheeses are usually packed in vacuum bags to prevent air exposure and to showcase the product’s “insides.” Artisan cheeses are usually displayed in their rinds and for those with little/no rinds, they are lightly packed in cling film.
Depending on the type of cheese, it can be enjoyed on its own, paired with wine, made into sandwiches, added to different food, and so on. With the thousands of varieties of cheese, there are also more than a thousand uses for this versatile and yummy food item.
Again, there are many different types of cheeses so the storage methods and times will vary with the different types. Here are some general rules that can be applied to almost all types of cheese.
- Never use cling film – While it may sound like a good idea, cling film actually suffocates the flavor of the cheese. The cheese will also absorb the taste of the plastic.
- Not too tight, not too loose, just right – Cheese needs to breathe. Don’t wrap it too tight as this will make the cheese absorb the taste of the packing material. Don’t wrap it too loose as this will expose a lot of the surface to air which will dry out the surface of the cheese.
- Wax paper or parchment paper works – Almost everyone has some was paper or parchment paper in their kitchen drawers. It is best to wrap the cheese with the wax paper before wrapping it in plastic. This creates two layers of protection. The wax paper forms a barrier against the plastic so that the cheese won’t absorb the plastic taste, and the plastic keeps the air out and retains the moisture in.
- Replace the paper often – Every time you take a piece of cheese, try to replace the wax paper wrap every time you unwrap the cheese. This is to keep your cheese tasting fresh.
- For more complex cheeses with brine and ultra-soft cheeses, try to keep them in their original containers and replace the brine once they start to smell too cheesy.
- Don’t buy too much – Cheese doesn’t survive too well in home fridges, just buy enough for you to finish within one or two weeks. Also, remember that fresh cheese is best (this means fresh from being opened).
There are more “advanced” storage methods for cheese which may differ for every variant. Ask your local cheesemaker or cheese merchant for more information.
How Is Cheese Made?
Want to try to make your own cheese? Here is a basic primer on how to make cheese.
Get some fresh and warm milk. The fresher the milk, the better the cheese will taste. (This is why artisan cheeses from local farms taste so good, they’re still warm from the udder when they’re made into cheese.)
Acidify the milk using vinegar, citric acid, cultures, or bacteria.
Add rennet to coagulate the curds. Rennet allows the curds to gel up and form a solid floating blob. Once you can press down on it with your hands, then it is ready.
Cut the curd into pieces. The smaller you cut them, the drier the final product will be.
Stir the mixture while heating it up. This process will actually dry out your curds, the more you cook, the drier the cheese will be.
Dump the mixture on a cheesecloth to strain. This is to remove the excess whey from the curds. Shape the cheese into the mold while still warm so that the resulting cheese will be nice and smooth.
You can now eat the cheese at this stage although the flavor will be very mild.
Age the cheese (optional).
While this may outline the basic steps on making cheese, it is best to attend a cheesemaking class to get some hands-on experience. It is hard to imagine all of the steps involved unless you see it with your own eyes.
How to Pair Cheese and Wine:
While the pairing possibilities are endless, we’re going to take the five most popular kinds of cheese in Texas and pair them with the wine that best complements their flavor.
- Gouda and Cabernet Sauvignon – Gouda is fruity and nutty, this needs to be paired with a full-bodied wine like cabernet sauvignon to cut through the cheese’s richness.
- Goat Cheese and Sauvignon Blanc – Goat cheese is one of the more popular local cheeses in Texas, the tangy taste of the cheese goes perfectly with this distinct white wine.
- Monterey Jack and Merlot – This American cheese is light so it needs a light and fruity wine like Merlot to go with it.
- Feta and Beaujolais – Since feta cheese is on the salty side, you need something bright to go with it, like Beaujolais or a light Greek wine.
- Aged Cheddar and Malbec – To counter out the sharpness in aged cheddar, a nice tannin-rich Malbec will help balance everything out.
These are not hard-and-fast rules but merely suggestions, everyone has different tastes and preferences when it comes to wine and cheese pairings.