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Cheese School

Cheese making has been around for 1000’s of years dating back to 4000 BC.  Legend is that the nomadic tribes of Central Asia who carried milk in animal skin bags “discovered” cheese.  They carried milk in saddlebags made from animal stomach which contains the coagulating enzyme known as rennin.  Fermentation of the milk sugars would cause the milk to curdle.  The galloping motion of the horse, acting as churning, would effectively separate the milk into curds.  The result, curds and whey, provided a refreshing whey drink as well as curds which would be drained through perforated earthenware bowls or woven reed baskets, and lightly salted to provide a tasty and nourishing high protein food.

Over the centuries early cheese makers tinkered with that basic recipe by adding different flavors and textures into their cheeses by using different milks, adding various bacteria and molds and aging for different lengths of time.  There are now hundreds of different kinds of cheeses.

95% of all cheeses fall into these 6 categories


Tips:

  • Always bring a table cheese to room temperature before serving it–the flavor is much better.
  • Younger cheeses tend to be mild, soft, and moist.  As cheeses age, they become more pungent, hard, and crumbly.
  • Many cheeses become rubbery when cooked too long or at too high a temperature.  If you plan to cook with a cheese, select a heat-tolerant one like mozzarella or Emmental.
  • It’s usually best to keep cheese in its original packaging.  If the cheese has been cut, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap to hold in the moisture.  If it hasn’t been cut, wrap it first with waxed paper and then with plastic wrap–this allows the cheese to breathe.
  • Store cheese near the bottom of the refrigerator where temperature fluctuations are minimal.
  • Harder cheeses have a longer shelf life than soft, moist ones.
  • Don’t freeze cheese–it ruins the flavor.
  • Under-ripe cheeses haven’t fully developed their flavor while overripe cheeses become acidic and unpleasantly pungent.  Some overripe cheeses develop a strong ammonia smell.
  • If a small amount of mold forms on the surface of the cheese, cut it off along with a half an inch of cheese on all sides of it.  If there’s a lot of mold, throw the cheese out.
  • Many lactose-intolerant people find that they can tolerate low-lactose cheeses like cream cheese, cottage cheese, Mozzarella, and Provolone.
  • Don’t serve cheese with citrus or tropical fruits.

Blue

Many centuries ago, cheese was left to age in some moldy cave and became streaked with bluish-green mold.  But rather than spoiling the cheese, the mold gave it a pungent and distinctive flavor, and blue cheese was born. Since then, cheese-makers learned to inject or stir mold spores into different cheeses, and many still use […]

Firm or Hard

Hard Cheese is often pigeon-holed, to its detriment, as a “grating cheese”. In fact, hard cheeses are packed with flavor and deserve a place on any great cheese plate. The maturation period of these cheeses is usually measured in years, not months.  The production of hard cheese is much the same as that of any […]

Fresh-unripened

Most fresh cheese is made by curdling milk with an enzyme, and then draining off the whey.  The curds that remain are molded into cheese.  Fresh cheeses tend to be bland, so they’re often used as vehicles for other flavorings.  Some, like cream cheese, are used to make dips or cheesecakes.  Others, like ricotta cheese, are […]

Semi-firm

Semi-firm or semi-hard cheese Most semi-firm cheeses are pressed during production to remove moisture.  As they age, they become even firmer and more pungent and crumbly. Most of these cheeses are great for snacks and sandwiches, and many can be cooked without becoming rubbery or oily. Semi-firm cheese tend to have a longer shelf life […]

Semi-soft

These cheeses are great for snacking or desserts, and a few are heat-tolerant enough to be good cooking cheeses. Their flavor can vary dramatically, but they blend well with other cheeses, since they tend to be young and mild. You’ll find them typically in your four cheese sauces and pizzas.  These cheeses contain a high percentage […]

Soft-ripened

Soft-ripened or soft cheese: Cheeses in this category are often spread on bread or crackers to be served as snacks.  They’re usually not used for cooking.  Most soft cheeses should be used within a few days of purchase–they spoil faster than firmer cheeses. Varieties: * Denotes cheeses that we do not carry but their substitutions are […]