Understanding Cheese

There are several ways to classify cheese: origin, production method, milk used, fermentation method, ageing process, etc. For those of us that aren’t connoisseurs, cheese is limited to the few commercial or locally available varieties that are usually consumed along with other food items.

There are various methods to making cheese. Depending upon the local environment, palate and ingredients available, the cheese made might be hard, soft, ripened, aged or cooked. They can broadly be divided into the following categories:

Fresh Cheese: Fresh or un-ripened cheese is that which is soft, high in moisture content (approx. 80%), and does not undergo any ageing process. The coagulation of casein (protein) occurs due to the lactic acid fermentation and not because of the addition of rennet. This variety of cheese is used primarily for baking and desserts.

Fresh CheeseE.g.: Mascarpone, Quark & Ricotta

Soft Cheese: This type of cheese is ripened for a relatively short period of time, drained and turned into moulds. They are neither pressed nor cooked and have a soft light rind that is satiny in texture. They are best enjoyed fresh along with bread and / or crackers, as heating destroys its flavour.

Soft CheeseE.g.: Brie, Camembert & Brillat-Savarin

Semi-Firm Cheese: Semi firm cheese is created by draining the curd to reduce to moisture content to about 40-50%, and leaving it to age for anywhere between three to twenty-four months. It has a dense texture and pale yellow colour. They are excellent for cooking, grating and melting.

Gouda & MJ Cheese           E.g.: Monterey Jack, Edam & Gouda

Firm / Hard Cheese: Such cheese is cooked, pressed and left to age for a relatively long period of time, i.e. six months or more. The curd is heated to make it more concentrated, which upon pressing, produces a more compact cheese. The texture is firm but can sometimes also be granular in nature.

Hard CheeseE.g.: Parmesan, Emmental & Beaufort.

Blue Veined Cheese: This variety is created by the injection of a species of blue-green mold that causes fermentation internally. As a result, the curd is neither cooked nor pressed. Blue Cheese has a strong, sharp peppery flavor and crumbly texture.

Blue CheeseE.g.: Stilton, Roquefort & Gorgonzola

 

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