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 other type of cheese. The curd is usually pressed and sometimes cooked to drive out as much whey as possible at the outset. Hard cheese often possesses a uniquely crystalline texture. As cheese matures, the proteins and amino acids naturally break down. When this occurs in the low-moisture, high-salt environment of an aged cheese, the denatured proteins crystallize. These intensely flavored, crunchy bits are one of the most pleasurable characteristics of hard cheese.
* Denotes cheeses that we do not carry but their substitutions are available.
Asiago This aged cheese is often grated in salads, soups, pastas, and sauces is similar to Parmesan and Romano, but it's sweeter. It's also great on pizza. While the Italian asiago tends to be a little pricey the domestic knock-offs are pretty good. Don't confuse aged Asiago with the relatively obscure fresh Asiago cheese, which is semi-soft and can be used in the preparation of sandwiches and panini or as a table cheese. Substitutes: Parmesan (a little sharper) OR Romano (much sharper)
Cotija This is a sharp, salty white grating cheese that softens but doesn't melt when heated. Cacique is a well-known brand. Look for it in Hispanic markets. Substitutes: Parmesan OR Romano OR anejo cheese OR feta cheese
Dry jack This is aged jack cheese. Substitutes: Parmesan
Grana Padano Is one of the world's first hard cheeses, created nearly 1,000 years ago by the Cistercian monks of Chiaravalle Abbey. By the year 1477, it was regarded as one of the most famous cheeses of Italy. It can last a long time without spoiling, sometimes aging up to two years. Though similar to Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese, the younger Grana Padano cheeses are less crumbly, milder and less complex in flavor than their more famous longer-aged relative.Substitutes: Parmesan OR Asiago OR Romano
Kashkaval Don't confuse this with ordinary Kashkaval, which is a semi-firm cheese. Substitutes: Parmesan
* Kefalotyri This tangy hard Greek cheese is often grated over dishes. Substitutes: Romano OR Parmesan
Manchego (aged) This cheese is yellow and a terrific grating cheese. Don't confuse it with unaged Manchego cheese, which is almost white, semi-firm, and typically used as a melting cheese. Substitutes: pecorino Romano OR other firm cheese
Mimolette This French cheese is similar to Parmesan cheese, only it's a brilliant orange. Substitutes: Parmesan cheese
Mizithra (aged) Don't confuse this salty grating cheese with fresh Mizithra, which is similar to feta. This cheese is dry, crumbly, and very salty. Substitutes: ricotta salata OR Romano OR Parmesan
Parmesan This firm cheese is pungent and salty, and it's terrific grated on salads, pasta, or pizzas, or served simply with figs, pears, or crusty bread. The best parmesan is the Northern Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano, but less pricy domestic Parmesans are also well regarded. Substitutes: grana Padano OR Romano (higher in fat; sharper flavor) OR aged Asiago (saltier) OR Fontina OR Monterey jack
Pecorino Tuscano This is a firm Italian sheep's milk cheese.
* Queso enchilada This is a hard Mexican grating cheese that's coated with red chile paste. Substitutes: cotija (sharper tasting) OR Romano OR Parmesan
Romano This cheese is similar to Parmesan and Asiago, only it has a nuttier, sharper, and saltier flavor. It's often grated onto pizzas and pasta dishes to add flavor. Pecorino Romano is made from sheep's milk, Caprino Romano from goat's milk, and Vacchino Romano from cow's milk. Domestic Romanos aren't as well-regarded as Italian Romanos. Substitutes: Parmesan (not as sharp and salty) OR Asiago (sweeter) OR Sapsago (low-fat) OR Manchego
* Saanen Substitutes: other firm cheese
* Saenkanter This aged Gouda has a very complex, rich flavor.
Sapsago This Swiss grating cheese is colored and flavored by a clover-like herb. It's hard to find, but many seek it out as a low-fat substitute for Parmesan and Romano. Substitutes: Romano OR Parmesan
* Sbrinz This hard Swiss cheese resembles Parmesan. Substitutes: Emmentaler (softer) OR Gruyere (softer) OR Parmesan OR Romano
* Sierra Substitutes: Romano OR Parmesan OR other firm cheese
* Tzfati Substitutes: Parmesan OR other firm cheese