Posted by admin on 08/7/10 in Cheese
Trying to Categorize Cheeses
The final installment in my intro to Cheese Series.
There is no one set of rules by which to categorize the world’s cheeses. After thousands of years of cheese-making , we still are unable to agree on one set of rules, and here is why !
Some factors are very difficult to quantify – for example the classification relying on smell. Detection and rating vary from person to person depending on how acute their sense of smell is.
No one category can address all types and nuances. For example, Classification relying on rind alone,puts hundreds of cheeses with no rind in the same category. Another example is classification by aging that would put a Danish blue cheese and a Farmhouse Brie in the same category.
Traveling between different categories- Cheese is a living thing. Every cheese is released with a certain fat content and certain water content. As the cheese ages these percentages change due to water evaporation.Hence, the same triple creamed cheese , tastes much more pungent a month after you bought it! Moreover, a cheese that was classified as Semi-hard like a dutch Gouda will turn rock hard as it ages.
Knowing this, we can now learn to pick out, describe and appreciate cheeses using the more common categories for classification:
Classification determined by water content:
Very soft- 80 % water , spoonable, includes most fresh cheeses like Cottage cheese, Chevre,Labane.
Soft – 50 %-70% water, spreadable, includes the double and triple creamed cheeses ( Brie , Camembert,Robiola,Taleggio, Colummiers…), but also some feta cheeses( cow’s milk mainly).
Semihard- 40%-50% water, Sliceable, includes Edam,Gouda,Manchego,
Hard- 30%-50% water, very firm and dense, includes Parmigiano Reggiano , Pecorino,Piave,Ossau iraty, Mimolette..
Blue-40%-50% water,a classification within the semi hard group of cheeses,may be sliceable,spreadable or crumbly, includes all blue veined cheeses, like; Valdeon,Cabrales,Roquefort,Gorgonzola…
Length of aging prior to release
Fresh- Unaged, produced and released, include Cottage cheese , Cream cheese, Chevre.
Brief Molding period- 2 weeks-10 weeks, produced and allowed to take shape in a mold ( tub or basket), or for the rind to bloom,includes Feta, almost all blue cheeses and bloomy rind cheeses ( Grayson, Taleggio,Brie…).
Aged-Anywhere between 2 months and 5 years, depending on the cheese, produced and allowed to mature until the cheesemaker deems it fully aged and flavored, includes all hard and semi hard cheeses,like; Parmigiano Reggiano, Idiazabal,Pecorino, Cheddar,Gouda…
Type of Milk
Classification by what animal produces the milk.
The most common are Cow, Goat and Sheep (ewe), but there are also cheeses made with a mix of milk from different animals, and even cheeses from Buffalo,Moose , Camel or Yak’s milk.
Classification by degree of pungency.
A very difficult classification, works mainly for Bloomy rind cheeses like-Taleggio, Robiola, Camembert, Brie…
Method of making
Classification by main cheesemaking traditional methods.
Fresh Cheese-Unaged or ripened,includes some slightly pressed cheeses( Feta ),whey based cheeses that are only strained ( Urda, Ricotta),and the spoonable, Cottage, Cream cheese,Chevre.
Pasta Filata Cheese- The curds are cooked,then stretched and folded repeatedly before molding or shaping. The cheese is then ready to eat or may be ripened further and even smoked ( Mozzarella, Provolone, Paneer,Kashkaval).
Unpressed Ripened Cheese- The curds are minimally cut and allowed to drain . They are then ripened with mold or bacteria on the cheese surface ( Camembert, Brie,Taleggio…) or using a starter culture that is applied to the surface or inoculated into the cheese ( Stilton)
Pressed and Ripened Cheese- The curds are pressed before ripening.Examples- Manchego, Idiazabal,Cheddar,
Cooked ,Pressed and ripened- The curds are cooked in the whey, then milled, molded and pressed. Then the cheeses are aged for up to 5 years ( Parmigiano Reggiano, Piave, Gouda,Edam,Emmental …)
Processed-After the initial cheese-making process is complete ( See 2nd chapter of this series), more milk and emulsifying salts are added, food coloring and preservatives. This yields a very consistent product, yet unhealthy. Unfortunately ,these cheeses, sold in blocks,slices, tubes and even sprays are the most commonly consumed type Americans buy and consume more than any other ( American cheese,Kraft singles,Cheez whiz ….and other varieties of crap!)