I love cheese. Cheese is a very big reason I would never choose to go Vegan. You can do so many things with cheese, and there are so many different varieties of cheese out there. I could not even name all the varieties of cheese.
Cheese are generally categorized, at least in the US, based on the moisture content. The different types are soft, semi-soft, medium-hard, semi-hard, and hard cheeses. You will find them divided into other categories such as country of origin, type of milk used, and aging.
Soft cheeses can be as simple as cream cheese, which isn’t aged at all, to brie, which is aged for less than a month. I like cream cheese on a bagel or in a crepe, but it is also very handy in baking and some dips. Brie, camembert and the like are great just as a means to eat crackers, or I love making a beautiful dessert by wrapping it in a pie crust with some fig jam or mustard and baking it.
Semi-soft cheeses are aged for short periods. These can include havarti, buttercase, and bel paese. These cheeses are still almost “spreadable,” or at least can be squished between your fingers. I love semi-soft cheeses for snacking and charcuturie plates. However, some groceries will have them in deli slice forms, and they are good on sandwiches, especially with hearty meats like roast beef or corned beef.
Medium-hard cheeses are typically aged anywhere from 6 months to years. These cheeses include things like gouda, edam and swiss. These cheeses are great for melting but also good as snack cheese or on a charcuturie plate. Obviously, anyone who doesn’t love a classic cheese fondue has no taste! These cheeses range in their actual firmness depending on the type and aging. They are also very good for smoking.
Semi-hard are firm cheeses are typically aged one to six months, though they can also be aged for years. I think the longest aged cheese I have tried was a 14-year cheddar. Gouda and Edam, mentioned above, can also be semi-hard. These cheeses are great in so many form. Charcuturie, mac’n’cheese, cheddar soups, grated for chili or baked potatoes…the possibilities are just endless with these cheeses.
Hard cheeses are firmly packed into molds and aged from several months to years. These are cheeses like parmesan or pecorino. These cheeses are fantastic for grating and making sauces or topping your favorite Italian dishes. They add incredible flavor when mixed with soft cheeses like ricotta.
Besides moisture content, i.e. softness to firmness, the many cheeses vary in the preparation methods. You have rennet style cheeses, and you have cheeses made with an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. You have differences in whether the cheeses are rinses or where they are stored and at what temperature during aging. You have flavored variations of many types of cheese. You also have cheeses that are made using a brine or different molding agents.
I’m not expert on cheese. These are just some random things I have learned lately as I have embarked on making my own cheese. It was just a matter of time, after all, since I have been making my own sausage for a year or so. So far, I’ve made ricotta a couple of times, and I recently finally successfully made mozzarella. The mozzarella took three attempts, and I needed to review my prior post on patience! I’m currently completely torn on whether to find a wine refrigerator to use as a cheese cave or to buy a meat grinder and equipment for encasing sausages, but I’ve definitely found a new avenue for my kitchen adventures.