Types of Cheese
Well informed cheese lovers have been arguing about how to categorize cheeses for a very long time and there are several ways to slice the issue, but for our purposes here at Cheese Shop 831, we use these simplified categories; texture or style, milk source and origin.
Texture or Style refers to how the cheese is made and how it appears:
Fresh – often these cheeses are made in a matter of minutes instead of hours or months. Examples are Ricotta, Cottage Cheese, and Mozzarella. They are often very soft and mild flavored.
Bloomy Rind – the classic bloomy rind cheese is a French Brie with that beautiful white soft rind, which is, in fact, a mold. Other examples are Camembert (France), Cana de Cabra (Spain) and Humboldt Fog (USA).
Washed Rind – these cheeses are washed with a liquid while they ripen, often with wine or beer, which gives these cheeses a moist, slightly sticky and often orange-ish color. This group of cheese can be mild or quite pungent. Famous examples include Taleggio (Italy), Epoisses (France) and Red Hawk (USA).
Hard or Aged – this category could be broken down into many more sub-categories such as semi-soft, semi-hard, bandaged and aged, but for now, one broad category will suffice. These cheese are generally aged six months and longer, some over 10 years. They are firm to crumbly in texture and often have small, crunchy flavor crystals. Examples include Cheddar (England and around the world), Gouda (Netherlands) and Dry Jack (USA).
Blue veined – there are two main strains of blue in the world – Stilton and Gorgonzola. “Veins” of a blue mold are introduced to an aging cheese often by piercing the cheese with a needle and the resident blue mold with find its way into the body of the cheese. The result is a slightly bittersweet pungency that can be quite tasty in contrast to the flavor of the rest of the cheese. Examples are Stilton (England), Gorgonzola (Italy), Cabrales (Spain), Maytag (USA) and Saint Agur (France).
Most cheese made in the world today come from one of three animal sources – Cow, Goat or Sheep. Each type of milk is heavily influenced by what the animal eats and that, in turn, is heavily influenced by the seasons. Other interesting milk sources include water buffalo, camel, swine, and donkey. and, if you decide to go down the rabbit hole, you might find dolphin, whale and the milk of other fantastic beasts are known to have been used in the making of cheese.
Country of Origin
Some countries protect the name and region of certain cheeses in the same way they protect the labeling of their wines. It is usually something sought after and is recognized by the cheese being labeled with 'DOP' or 'AOP'. Cheeses with this abbreviation on them are very highly regulated and held to the highest standards. Examples of cheeses that carry this badge are stilton, roquefort, parmigiano reggiano and manchego.