We know cheese is intimidating to a lot of people. But to us, it really all boils down to – do you like it? Yes? Great. Buy more. No? Ok, let’s find something else.
In other words, taste really is in the taste buds of the beholder, or taster, in this case. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to cheese. Don’t like blue? No judgment. Washed rinds smell like gym socks to you? Ok, let’s taste an alpine.
The point here is that every palate is different and for each palate, there is a cheese. We explored the eight kinds of cheese last night in our Cheese 101 class. Here are our notes to help you navigate the cheese case. Curious as to what we tasted and how we paired them? Our pairings are at the end.
But remember, you don’t have to be a cheese expert to enjoy cheese. Just interested and curious. We’re happy to help you discover it firsthand by tasting what looks interesting to you.
THE EIGHT KINDS OF CHEESE
These are just unaged cheeses. They tend to be soft, since they haven’t been aged, and they are generally meant to be eaten soon after they are made. Examples: Chevre, Mozzarella, Queso Blanco, Feta.
These are mild flavor cheeses that are great for melting. Think of these when you are going to make a grilled cheese or mac-and-cheese. In general, they have a higher moisture content than semi-hard cheeses and they don’t have rinds. How do you know if it’s semi-soft? If you try to break them, they bend instead of breaking. Good examples are a young Gouda, Teleme, Edam, Fontina or Havarti.
Soft-Ripened/Bloomy Rind Cheese
You know these cheeses by their fuzzy white rinds. Think Brie or Camembert, but also triple cremes like Delice de Bourgogne. Unlike most cheeses, these ripen from the outside in. The cheesemaker inoculates the exterior with Penicillium Candidum or Penicillium Camemberti. These molds are like a dandelion; they have roots that go into the cheese and break down the proteins into a creamy, rich texture.
This one is a little confusing for a lot of people because it looks like a soft-ripened cheese. And essentially it is, but it is inoculated with a different mold, in this case Geotrichim. This mold is more of a yeast. It ripens on the surface and creates a bunch of wrinkles. This of these as your brain cheeses! The wrinkles intensify the flavor. And like soft-ripened cheeses, you definitely want to eat the rind. Good examples (no great examples) are Vermont Creamery’s Coupole or Bonne Bouche
This is the largest category of cheese. These cheeses are made by pressing the curds into molds and aging them for several months. This produces a firmer cheese, but one that can still be melted or sliced. They can have natural rinds or waxed or cloth rinds. Think of all the alpine/mountain cheeses (Appenzeller, Comte, Challerhocker) but also Cheddar or aged Goudas.
These are the firmest cheeses and generally the most complex. They are aged anywhere from several months to several years. They generally have grainy textures and salty, nutty flavors. Think of your grating cheeses such as Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano.
You know these when you smell them, but despite their strong aromas, many are mild tasting. These cheeses are washed repeatedly with a salty brine, or with wine, beer, brandy or other interesting liquid during ripening to encourage the growth of the Brevibacterium linens (B. linens) bacteria, which lends a pungent aroma, full, beefy flavor, and a reddish-orange rind. Examples include Epoisses (Cheesemonger Steve’s favorite cheese), Rowdy Gentleman, Pont L’Eveque, Stinking Bishop and Taleggio.
Tip: Not sure if you want to eat the rind? Taste the paste first. If you like it, try the rind because the rind will be an even stronger version of the paste you like. If you don’t like the paste, definitely don’t eat the rind!
Their distinctive blue or green streaks make blues hard to miss. Those streaks are created by adding different blue mold strains to the milk or curd and then piercing the aging cheeses so oxygen is allowed in and the mold can thrive and give the cheese its unique flavor. Examples include Gorgonzola (Italy), Roquefort (France) and Stilton (Britan), Rogue River Blue or West West Blue.
CHEESE 101 PAIRINGS
Haystack Fresh Chevre (Local!) + Lemon
Vivaldi Buffalo Mozzarella
Sottocenere al Tartufo
Jasper Hills Moses Sleeper
Delice de Bourgogne
Vermont Creamery Coupole
Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche
Cabot Clothbound Cheddar
Parmigiano Reggiano + Balsamic Glaze
L’Amuse Gouda + Hellimae’s Sea Salt Caramel
Prodigal Farm Rowdy Gentleman + Marcona Almond
Spring Brook Farm Reading + Cornichon
Parish Hills West West Blue + Honey
Prodigal Farm Blue Chevrelait