Cheese Characteristics and Uses  Hints, Tips and Tricks  1027 reads

American Semi-soft, mild, smooth, light yellow or orange, usually cut into square slices; it does not separate when melted. Crackers, English muffins, pretzels, apples and red grapes. Serve with beer, light white wine, ice-cold milk, tomato juice and lemonade.
Amish (Lacy) Swiss There are different types of Amish Swiss which have been perfected by the Amish in different areas all around the country. The most commercially popular is a longhorn shaped Swiss cheese which develops small lace-like eyes. It is creamier in texture than regular Swiss cheese. Ham and cheese sandwiches.
Anejo Enchilada Mexico. A firm, pressed cheese rolled in paprika. This cheese is not as strongly flavored as Cotija but can be easily shredded or grated. It is commonly used as a topping or stuffing for enchiladas, burritos, and tacos.  
Asadero A smooth, yellow cheese with more "tang" than the mild Queso Quesadilla cheese. This cheese is ideal for baking because its stronger flavor adds to the appeal of a baked dish.  
Asiago
(ah-zee-AH-goh)
Mexico. Piquant, sharp tasting cheese with a nutty, pleasantly-salty flavor. Asiago blends well with Cheddar, Parmesan or mozzarella. This cow's milk cheese gets its name from from the village of Asiago in northern Italy. Of the two types, Asiago d'allevo and Asiago pressato, only the d'allevo is available in the United States. The d'allevo is made from partially skimmed cows' milk and is beige in color with distinctive tiny holes running throughout the cheese. When ripe, the cheese can be soft and makes for a great table cheese, but when aged for a year or longer, it is used as a grading cheese. The flavor is rich, somewhat nutty, but mild. It may be coated with paraffin. It can range from a softer firm to a hard granular texture depending on aging. When grated, it melts quickly over heat. Often you will find Asiago served in restaurants as a substitute for Parmesan because it's cheaper. If you have a choice, ask for Parmesan. The milder, sweeter Asiago pressato is made from pasteurized whole milk and is aged only for a short time and is not exported to the US. Pasta, figs, grapes, apples and pears. Serve with red wines, cider, cranberry juice, and sparkling red grape juice.
Baby Swiss The mildest, sweetest cheese of the family that includes Switzerland's famous Emmenthaler and Gruyere. Baby Swiss is notable for its light, almost white color, creamy texture and small holes. Ivory to pale yellow, creamy with small eyes, it melts well when shredded. It has a buttery, slightly nutty and sweet flavor and smooth melting characteristics. A smoked version is also available. Cheese trays, sweet fruits and berries, croissants and muffins. Serve with fruity white wine, aged red wine, juices and ice-cold milk.
Basato Uruguayan. Semi-hard and sharp. This unique table cheese can be used as you use Provolone. Excellent in antipasto, sandwiches, as a topping, or in cooking. It shreds well.
Blue Cheese
(Bleu Cheese)
Semi-soft white cheese with blue veins, sometimes crumbly interior. This is a generic term to describe many different types of cheeses made throughout Europe and North America. All blues begin as unpressed white cheese onto which a blue mold such as Penicillium roqueforti is dusted. The mold makes its way into the interior of the cheese via forty or so holes punched through the wheel of cheese as it ages. Most blues have a crumbly texture and a sharp, tangy flavor. Blue cheese melts quickly under heat when crumbled. Serve blue cheese with robust, whole-grain crackers. Crumble blue into sour cream or plain yogurt as a dip, or into mayonnaise as a dressing. Pears, raisins, fruit breads and walnuts. Serve with full-bodied red wines, cappuccino, fruit juice and champagne. Port wine is the classic accompaniment.
Boursin Soft, French dessert cheese. Rich and creamy with some tartness. Good with fruit and wine.
Brick Semi-soft. Ivory with numerous small round and irregular-shaped holes and an open texture. Shredded brick melts quickly under heat. Mild with a sweet, pungent flavor. Apples, grapes, pears, onions, sweet crackers and dark bread. Serve with light red wines, beer, cran-apple juice, cider and sparkling mineral water.
Brie
(bree)
A world-famous externally-ripened cow's milk cheese that originated in the 13th-century near Paris. It is an easily recognized thin disc covered with a whitish bloom. This rind may be eaten depending on personal taste. At its peak, the cheese's interior should be plump and glossy, but not runny or smelling of ammonia, which indicates over-ripeness.

Its flavor (without the rind) may be best described as mildly tangy and fruity.

Serve Brie with a variety of fruits. Thin slices served on a sandwich with roast beef are quite tasty. Some people enjoy Brie baked in a pastry crust.
Camembert Created in 1789 by Marie Harel, a peasant woman and said to have been christened by Napoleon himself, this cow's milk cheese (40 to 45% fat) is world renown. 11 centimeters in diameter and 3 to 4 centimeter's thick, this smooth creamy cheese with a soft white rind should be served at room temperature when perfectly ripe. You'll know it's perfectly ripe when it oozes thickly. If it is runny, it is overripe. An externally-ripened cows-milk cheese similar in appearance to Brie. Its flavor is only slightly more assertive than Brie, and its rind is edible. Use Camembert as you would Brie.
Cantal Firm, yellow cheese from France. Piquant flavor. Good with wine or beer, for snacks, appetizers, desserts or cooking.
Cheddar Hard, smooth, firm, it can be crumbly and have a white or orange color. Cheddars that are more mild melt well under direct heat whereas a sharper Cheddar will not melt as well and will perform better shredded and incorporated in a sauce. Ranges from mild to sharp, becoming sharper with age. Cheddar can be frozen but some of its moisture will be drawn out. This does not change the flavor but it does affect the texture. For this reason, once Cheddar has been frozen it is best suited for cooking. Apples, pears, pumpernickel and rye breads, mushrooms and tomatoes. Serve with red wines, beer, apple cider or Port.
Chesire Firm, moist, salty cheese from England. Sometimes crumbly. Rich and mellow. Good for snacks, appetizers or dessert. Serve with dry red wine or beer.
Chevre The French word Chevre is a generic term for cheese made from the milk of goats. Most Chevre made in the United States is a very fresh, soft white cheese shaped into small logs. Contrary to popular belief, its flavor is tangy, yet mild.  
Colby Hard cheese, although softer with a more open texture than Cheddar. It is light yellow to orange, has tiny holes and melts well when grated. Ranges from mild to mellow, lightly sweet to sharp and tangy and is often sold in longhorn shape. An American original, Colby is named for the town where it was invented. Colby is a "washed curd" cheese. The term "washed curd" indicates that during the cooking process the whey is replaced by water to reduce the curd's acidity. In addition, the curd is not turned and stacked like a Cheddar, nor is it pressed quite as hard. The cheese which results is somewhat similar to Cheddar, but softer and moister with a mild, sweet flavor. Colby may be used just like Cheddar. Apples, pears, pumpernickel and rye breads, mushrooms and tomatoes. Serve with red wines and beer, apple cider or Port.
Colby Jack The colorful combination of a yellow cheese (Colby) and a white cheese (Monterey Jack). This mixture of two different cheeses gives Colby Jack a unique marbled look. It is generally sold in a full-moon or a half-moon shape when it is still young and mild in flavor. Eight ounce bars cut from 40 pound blocks are another popular way you'll find this cheese packaged and sold.  
Cotija Known as the "Parmesan of Mexico," this cheese is strongly flavored, firm, and perfect for grating. It is used in Hispanic cooking in a manner similar to the way Parmesan is used in Italian cooking. Cotija is commonly used to add a lively garnish to common dishes: simply sprinkle on top of refried beans, salads, chili or lasagna. In Mexico, it is also widely used to enhance the flavor of many savory dishes by mixing directly into the casserole or recipe. In the U.S. it is increasingly popular on pasta.
Cottage Cheese White with small or large individual moist curds that resist melting. Cottage cheese should not be frozen. Milky and mild. Tomatoes, citrus fruit, herb or fruit breads, salads and vegetables; serve with white wine or ice-cold milk.
Cream Cheese Soft, white, smooth, spreadable cheese that melts quickly and should not be frozen. Mild and slightly acidic, often flavored with fruits or herbs. Fresh fruit, jams and jellies, fruit and nut breads and bagels; serve with cranberry or grape juices or a light white wine.
Duroblando A strongly flavored Caribbean cheese that is firm, and has a mild smoked flavor. It is used for grating in a manner similar to Cotija.  
Edam Firm, coated in a red wax with a creamy yellow, semisoft to hard interior. It melts quickly under heat when shredded. Mild, slightly salty, nut-like flavor. Mild Edam: Peaches, melons, apricots and cherries. Serve with fruity wine and lager beer, lemonade, flavored iced tea, apple juice and raspberry sparkling water.

Aged Edam: Apples and pears. Serve with fruity red or white wines and sparkling red cranberry juice.

Emmentaler "Swiss" cheese from Switzerland. Hard and smooth, pale yellow cheese with large holes. Sweet, nutty flavor. Good for fondues, snacks, dessert and cooking. Serve with red wine or beer.
Farmhouse Cheese These are terms you will hear and see quite often when dealing with limited-production, artisan crafted cheeses. "Farmhouse Cheese" is not a specific type of cheese, but a term used to denote a cheese made by a farm using exclusively the milk from its own herd.

Additionally, Farmhouse cheesemakers usually use raw (unpasteurized) milk in their cheeses because they feel the pasteurization process removes some of the "character" of their milk. During the cheese's aging process, the cheese builds up certain acids which cause it to "self-pasteurize," making it perfectly safe to eat. Because Farmhouse cheeses are usually made in small batches by hand, the cheesemaker's individual style becomes very evident in the flavor, texture and even the color of the finished product

 
Feta Of Greek origin, this pale white cheese was originally made from the milk of sheep. Today, in the United States, it is often made from cow's milk. Feta's curd is only lightly pressed and then ripened in brine, giving the cheese a crumbly texture and salty taste. Soft, flaky, crumbly and white, feta melts well over heat. Salty, pickled flavor. Use on a Mediterranean-inspired appetizer tray or crumbled over salads. Olives, sun-dried tomatoes, vegetables, fruit, seafood and chicken; serve with Greek wines like retsina, tomato juice and citrus sparkling water.
Fondu au Raisin French, dessert cheese. Semi-soft, mild and creamy. Coated with black grape seeds. Serve with nice red wine, French bread, fruit.
Fontina Semi-soft from Italy. Mild. nutty flavor, light brown rind. Good in fondue, with bread, fruit, for dessert. Serve with dry red wine.
Fromage Blanc A very soft, spreadable unripened cheese made from skim milk. Literally translated from the French, Fromage Blanc simply means "white cheese."  
Gorgonzola
(gohr-guhn-ZOH-lah)
Semi-soft with a light ivory surface and interior marbled with blue-green veins.Piquant, spicy flavor similar to blue cheese. It becomes crumbly with age and melts quickly when crumbled over heat. Named for the Italian city where it is made, this cow's milk cheese is rich and creamy with a slightly pungent flavor. When aged over 6 months, both the flavor and the aroma become stronger....much stronger. Some people think its stinky, but if you like strong cheese, you will love gorgonzola. Pears, raisins, fruit breads, sweet crackers and walnuts. Serve with full-bodied red wines, sweet red wine, cappuccino, fruit juice and champagne.
Gouda Originating in the Netherlands, Gouda is easily recognized by its distinctive red waxed exterior, enrobing a three to fifteen-inch wheel. The cheese itself is straw-colored, with a firm yet creamy texture scattered with small holes. Typically aged for only a few months before it reaches maturity, its mild and buttery flavor develops a richer tang as the cheese ages. Gouda can range from semisoft to firm, has a smooth texture and is often found in a wax coating. Gouda melts quickly when it is shredded and heated. Baby Gouda is usually coated in red wax; a more mature Gouda has a yellow wax coating and black wax or brown rind suggests it has been smoked and aged for over a year. Mild and nutty, it is often available smoked or with caraway seeds. Mild Gouda: Peaches, melons, apricots and cherries. Serve with fruity red or white wine, lager beer, orange juice, apple juice, flavored tea and citrus sparkling water.

Aged Gouda: Apples and pears. Serve with hearty red wine, beer, coffee, cider and sparkling red grape juice.

Smoked or flavored Gouda: Apples, pears, thinly sliced prosciutto. Serve with red wine, beer, sparkling cider, tomato or vegetable juice and cran-grape juice.

Gruyere It is a shiny yellow, hard, smooth small-eyed cheese that melts well without separating and is often used for sauces, with grilled meats, poultry and fish. Mild and slightly sharp. Prosciutto or thinly-sliced ham or salami, apples, figs, melon, dates, walnut halves. Serve with full-bodied red wine, beer or ale, tomato juice, cranberry juice and cider
Havarti Semi-soft light to pale yellow with tiny eyes in its smooth body, it melts well when it is shredded. Mild to mellow. Roasted red peppers, olives, bread, and bread sticks. Serve with fruity white wine, sparkling water, light red wine and sparkling water.
Kasseri A firm Greek cheese, lends a pungent, nutty taste; if it is unavailable, Parmesan can fill the role. Pastitsio
Liederkranz Strong cheese, soft and creamy. From the U.S. Similar to Limburger. Good on dark bread, with beer or wine.
Limburger Very strong cheese from Belgium. Semi-soft with a smooth, creamy ivory body is covered in a brownish exterior that melts quickly under direct heat when it is sliced. Strong, robust and highly-aromatic. Pumpernickel and other whole-grain, dark breads and crackers, pretzels and onions. Serve with beer, full-bodied red wine, cranberry juice, cran-grape juice and tomato or vegetable juice.
Livarot
(LEE-vah-roe)
One of France's oldest, a wonderful cheese named after a village in Normandy and whose nickname is the Colonel because it is bound with five strips of paper that look like a Colonel's stripes. Originally, the stripes were made of natural rush harvested from the edge of ponds. This is a strong cheese with lots of flavor (beefy, nutty) and a pungent aroma. (If it has a smell of ammonia, it is past its prime) Livarot is made from cow's milk but has only a 40% fat content. It is naturally white but colored orange-red with a tincture from a South American tree called the roucou. It has a soft washed rind, is round with a 12 cm diameter and is 5 cm thick. Livarot goes great with a big red wine as well as with apple cider. Try it with bread and/or fruit, especially apples and pears.
Mascarpone
(mas-cahr-POHN-ay)
Made in Italy from cow's cream, mascarpone is a buttery double to triple cream cheese. It has an ivory color, smooth texture and cream-like flavor. It is sold in 8 ounce and 1 pound containers. Hard to find in this country, you may have to look in a good cheese shop or specialty market. Creamy, thick and smooth, it melts well in sauces. Full-flavored, semisweet and butter-like. It is indispensable for cannoli fillings as well as the classic dessert, Tiramisu, and is the foundation for Torta. It may be used as the primary ingredient of a "killer" cheesecake. Fresh fruits, berries, fresh figs, shortbread and ladyfingers; serve with sparkling, light, fruity wines and coffee or liqueurs.
Monterey Jack Semi-soft, creamy white with tiny cracks, Monterey jack melts best when it is shredded or sliced. Mild to mellow. Created by Spanish monks in early California, Monterey jack is a light-colored, creamy-textured relative of Cheddar noted for its mild flavor. It is because of that mildness that Monterey jack is so often flavored with Jalapeno Jack being the most famous of this type. All jack cheeses melt beautifully. Especially good on broiled, open-face sandwiches. Jack's meltability has made it indispensable for Southwestern and "Tex-Mex" dishes, shredded over tacos, stuffed into enchiladas or melted over refried beans. Serve jack cheeses with beer and fruity wines.
Morbier
(MORE-bee-yay)
Named for a little farm town in France, this semisoft cow's cheese was originally made with left over cheese for personal consumption by the cheesemakers. At the end of the day the cheesemaker would take leftover curd from making Gruyere de Comte and press it into a mold. To keep it from drying out and to keep the insects away, he would top it off with a little ash. In the morning he would add any additional curd on top of the ash and you had Morbier. Today it is made from a single batch of mild and add a harmless vegetable product to give it the same appearance. It measures 15 - 18 inches in diameter, about 3 inches in height, weighs about 20 pounds, and has a minimum fat content of 45%.  
Mozzarella
(maht-suh-REHL-lah)
A semi-soft creamy white, malleable cheese with a mild flavor typically made from cow's milk. It melts best when it is sliced or shredded. Often known as "The Pizza Cheese," mozzarella is mild and delicate and is often molded into shapes. It came from southern Italy where it was originally made from buffalo milk. If you are lucky enough to find real buffalo mozzarella in your local market, try it. Although expensive, it's like eating ice cream compared to frozen yogurt. Mozzarella is packaged in a variety of sizes and is produced in whole-milk, part-skim and skim varieties. The higher the fat content, the richer and more tender the cheese. Besides pizza, Mozzarella may be used to top any baked Italian dish, including ziti casseroles, lasagna, and veal, chicken or eggplant "parmesan". It may be marinated in good olive oil and herbs as an antipasto. Bread and pan (or deep) fry mozzarella "cutlets" and serve on a pool of marinara sauce. Good with mushrooms, plum tomatoes, sweet crackers and pumpernickel bread. Serve with light red wine or a white zinfandel, soda, beer and juice.
Muenster Semi-soft yellow, orange or white surface with a creamy white, smooth interior, it melts quickly when shredded. Mild to mellow. A surface ripened cheese, is a mild cheese that has a resilient, open texture with just a hint of salt. One of Muenster's trademarks is a dark orange coloring applied to the outside of the cheese. This is a natural coloring called annatto, which is tasteless. Shredded for sandwiches and pizza toppings. Tomatoes, baby carrots, zucchini, rye and whole-grain breads, crackers and mustard. Serve with fruity wine like a white zinfandel, beer, juice and soda.
Neufchatel Originated in Normandy France. It is a very soft, spreadable cheese similar to cream cheese. It differs from true cream cheese because it is made from whole milk and not cream. Neufchatel can be molded into many shapes and is traditionally molded in a heart shape. However, in North America it is more commonly found in a brick form (and is found next to the regular cream cheese in the supermarket). Use instead of cream cheese in almost any recipe. It is also very good on toasted bagels, with or without lox and raw onion.
Panela The most popular fresh cheeses in Mexico, this cheese is mild, white, and crumbly. Like Queso Blanco, it will not run when heated. It will get soft and creamy but will not lose its shape. Used in Mexico for many cooked dishes and is commonly crumbled over salads, tacos, chili and burritos.
Parmesan Hard Italian cheese, with sharp, piquant flavor. A grating cheese. Used in all types of cooking, especially Italian dishes.
Parmigiano-
Reggiano
There are parmesan cheeses made all over the world but there is only one Parmigiano-Reggiano. Although more expensive, this granular textured cheese whose processing method hasn't changed in the last 700 years is usually aged for 2 years. If labeled stravecchio - 3 years or stravecchiones - 4 years. Two reasons why Parmigiano-Reggiano has better taste and consistency; (1) the flavor of the milk which comes from cows whose diets are strictly controlled, and (2) the strict production codes that have kept the cheese making the same for centuries. Only fresh milk, rennet, and salt are allowed in the dairy. However, in 1984 the laws changed to allow the entire years production be branded Parmigiano-Reggiano. Prior to 1984, only the cheese produced between April and November could be labeled such.  
Pasteurized Process Cheese This popular style of cheese encompasses cheeses like white and yellow American and many smoked varieties. Natural cheeses like Cheddar and Swiss are ground or shredded together, and heated in excess of 150 degrees F. through the introduction of very hot steam. Concentrated milk fat and an emulsifying agent are added, along with a preservative and sometimes a natural coloring agent. While hot, it is poured into a mold and allowed to cool. The end result is a smooth, consistent, uniform piece of cheese which has better keeping qualities and does not continue to sharpen like non-pasteurized cheeses.  
Pasteurized Process Cheese Food The difference between pasteurized process cheese and pasteurized process cheese food is that skim milk is added along with other flavorful ingredients like jalapenos, garlic, onion, caraway, or various other spices. Pasteurized Process Cheese Food is lower in fat than regular American Cheese and most natural cheeses.  
Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread A dairy product similar to pasteurized cheese food but higher in moisture to allow it's easy spreadability. These cheese spreads come in many varieties and flavors and are also lower in fat than regular natural cheese.  
Pecorino
(peh-koh-REE-noh)
From the word pecora which means ewe in Italian, cheeses made from sheep's milk in Italy are called pecorino. Although the majority of pecorino is made in southern Italy, especially Sardinia, the best known pecorino is Pecorino Romano. Genuine Romano is only produced in the province of Rome from November to June. Locatelli is genuine pecorino cheese. Pecorino is straw colored, 36% fat, semi-hard, granular with a smooth rind coated in oil. It comes in a cylindrical shape about 12 inches in diameter, 16 inches tall and although a little sharper than Parmesan, it is often substituted when used in cooking. It has an intensely strong sheepy quality to it. It is to southern Italy what Parmigiano-Reggiano is to the north. Look for the sheep's head logo with Pecorino Romano embossed on the rind to make sure you are getting the real stuff. Grated on pasta dishes.
Pepper Jack A Monterey jack cheese which has had jalapeno peppers blended in. It has a mild creamy texture, yet the peppers add a delicious spicy flavor. Can be eaten as a snack or it can be a marvelous addition to any recipe.
Port du Salut
(por du sa lu')
Semi-soft, smooth and buttery. Mellow to robust flavor between Cheddar and Limburger. Dessert cheese; delicious with fresh fruit. Great with apple pie. Good on a snack tray.
Provolone The hard, stringy texture makes it easy to cut without crumbling. This light yellow to golden brown cheese is usually packaged in round, pear and sausage-shaped packages bound with a cord. It melts quickly when shredded. Full, sharp, piquant, usually smoked flavor. Provolone is the ubiquitous "hoagie cheese" found on almost all Italian-style sandwiches. Generally formed into cylinders or ball-shapes (in the U.S.), Provolone is white and firm-textured with a mild flavor. Provolone is very often smoked, making the cheese's flavor more assertive. Besides its use in sandwiches, versatile Provolone may be used as a pizza topping (with Mozzarella), served on an antipasto tray or used in salads. Tomatoes, roasted red peppers, olives, breads and pears. Serve with full-bodied reds like Merlot or Chianti and sparkling water.
Quark This is soft, spreadable German-style cream cheese. Its fat content is higher than the skim milk Fromage Blanc, but significantly lower than Mascarpone. It is very white, with a tangy flavor. Very versatile, Quark can be used in everything from bagel spreads to desserts.
Queso Blanco This mild tasting cheese is the most popular cheese South of the Border - both for snacking and cooking. It is wonderful to cook with because, unlike American-type cheeses, it will become soft and creamy when heated but will not melt! Use for stuffed chicken breasts, stuff
Reblochon Creamy, French cheese. Semi-soft, with mild and nutty flavor. Good for dessert, with French bread, fruit, wine.
Ricotta From Italy. Soft and fresh, mild and creamy. Important cooking cheese for many Italian dishes, including lasagna.
Romano Hard Italian cheese. Varies from mild to sharp. Young cheeses good with bread, fruit, wine. Older cheeses grated for cooking.
Roquefort Semi-soft French cheese. White marbled with blue-green. Sharp, pungent flavor. Good for dessert with strong red wine; also salad dressings.
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