Cheese is made from three humble ingredients: milk, rennet and salt – yet the textures, flavors and appearances are as different and as complex as human beings. Pair cheese with fresh or dried fruit, bread, crackers, fruit pastes, nuts and fancy mustards or top salads, omelets or sandwiches. There is a cheese to please all palates and add pizzazz to your holiday soirée.
Fresh Cheeses are unripened cheeses that are ready to eat. These young cheeses, such as mascarpone and fresh mozzarella from Mozzarella Fresca®, are made from cow’s milk. Chvére from Montchevré, made from goat’s milk, has a tangy, mild flavor. Creamy, silky, fresh, soft cheeses have a moisture content of about 60% and often have the bright whiteness of fresh milk.
Brie is a soft-ripened cheese generally made with cow’s milk that can be mild, smooth and buttery to earthy and mushroomy as it ages. Look for a white velvety, edible rind with a semi-soft interior. As Brie ages, it becomes softer and more spreadable. Brie may be flavored with ash, blue mold, herbs or peppers.
Danish Blue is modeled after French blues. It is made from cow’s milk and has a milder, less complex flavor than Roquefort. The interior is white with a blue vein and the texture is creamy, with the typical tang and saltiness you expect from a blue cheese.
Havarti, a semi-soft cheese made with cow’s milk, has a mild and buttery flavor. The texture is creamy with a very light to rich yellow color. Havarti is great served with fruit or for snacking. Some semi-soft cheeses may be more pungent, earthy and full-flavored than Havarti. Cheese classified as semi-soft when young, will become harder during the aging process.
Gouda, depending on its ripeness, is a semi-hard to hard cheese made from cow’s milk. Gouda comes in wheels with rinds that may be covered with wax of various colors, red being the most likely. Depending on the age, Gouda’s interior can range from pale yellow to deep gold and its flavor, again depending on age, can range from mild to full, rich and fruity.
Jarlsberg is a semi-hard, Emmenthal-type cheese that is sweeter and softer. Made from partially skimmed cow’s milk, Jarlsberg is the largest selling imported cheese in the U.S. Semi-hard cheeses generally have a wonderfully complex flavor with a balance of earthiness, sweetness and sometimes a buttery flavor. As these cheeses age, they become more firm, more pungent and crumbly.
Cheddar comes from the cheese making method of “cheddaring,” where curds are cut into blocks and stacked to exude whey. Cheddar originated in England, but is made all over the world. Made from cow’s milk, Cheddar is easily the world’s most popular cheese.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is the true Parmesan cheese with its granular texture that melts in your mouth. The words Parmigiano- Reggiano stenciled on the rind mean that the cheese was produced in the areas of Bologna, Modena or Parma. This hard, dry cheese is made from skimmed or partially skimmed cow’s milk. Good Parmesan has a straw-yellow interior, with a rich, sharp flavor.