Types of Cheese: Identifying and Choosing Favourites

For many people, cheese is an essential part of their diet, while for others it is a delicious occasional snack. Cheese can be incredibly simple or it can be very complex. It can be very basic, or it can be a finely crafted delicacy. Cheese can be aged over many years, or you can make a basic cheese for your own needs right in your very own kitchen.

Better understanding the various types of cheese that are available to purchase will allow you to better utilize cheese in your own dishes.

Fresh Cheeses – A Favourite for Chefs

Fresh cheeses include those that have only very recently been made, and have not been aged. They have a tendency to be very soft – sometimes stretchy or stringy – and to have little to no colour. These types of cheese are ready to eat right away, and with enough cooking proficiency and the right tools, you can make many of them right in your very own kitchen. However, do bear in mind that these types of cheese tend to have a short shelf life, so they are best used up quickly. These fresh cheeses can include:

  • Ricotta
  • Feta
  • Fresh Mozzarella
  • Chevre
  • Halloumi

Often, these types of cheese cannot be eaten on their own, but used in recipes that call for cheese as a base for sauces. Ricotta is a common component of Italian dishes such as lasagne, while both Chevre and Halloumi are commonly blended with fruits or other ingredients to be used as a spread or to be eaten as a healthy and nutritious breakfast treat. Simply serving cheeses like mozzarella or ricotta with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh veggies can be a great, healthy Italian treat as well.

Soft-Ripened Cheese – Favourites Among Gourmands

While they remain as soft as fresh cheese, soft cheeses are not as mild as fresh cheese and have very distinctive flavours that require careful aging to create. The most famous of the soft-ripened cheeses are Brie and Camembert, both of which have a rich and buttery flavour in addition to a particular pungency that makes them distinctive from other types of cheese. When purchasing Brie or Camembert, it is important to note that the rind of the cheese should be checked to ensure it has the appropriate colour. This rind, which is edible, should be chalky and white, without any additional coloration such as pinkness. You should also ensure that there is a slight give to the cheese, as a firmer Brie or Camembert will not have quite the same flavour as the softer version.

There are many different ways to eat these types of cheese. For many, simply having it with bread or crackers is perfect. However, for a fun twist, you may consider having baked Brie. These cheeses also pair well with delicate types of fruit such as apple and pear.

Semi-Hard Cheeses – Delicious and Versatile

While not the most well known of the cheese, there is plenty to love about the many types of semi-hard cheeses that are available. While not entirely soft, like Brie, they are not as hard as other types of cheese, either. They often have a somewhat crumbly texture, and are terrific for melting, either for sauces or for the creation of treats such as fondue. A great way to introduce kids to more gourmet cheese is by melting semi-hard cheese and using it for a delicious topping for mac and cheese. Check out this guide to healthy cooking with kids for more ideas.

If you are looking for a cheese that has good melting qualities, the semi-hard variant is typically the way to go. Here are a few examples for you to consider:

  • Edam
  • Gouda
  • Monterey Jack
  • Chevre
  • Colby

Hard Cheeses – Complex and Delicious Flavour

Most people are most comfortable using the many different varieties of hard cheese that are available in their grated or shredded form, but it could be worth your while to give these cheeses a try on your next cheese platter. The flavour of these cheeses is often incredibly complex, which makes them great for mixing into meals but makes them equally delicious when served on their own. These types of cheese can also be a great option for salads or for sprinkling on other types of foods.

Hard cheeses are denser, have far less moisture, and as a result of the process of creating them are often saltier than other types of cheese. As mentioned before, cheeses are available in both semi-hard and hard forms, Cheddar being a prime example.

When buying a hard cheese, try and get a sample if possible. It can be too easy for these types of cheese to become tried out and hard as they are already very low in moisture. Some types to try include:

  • Parmesan
  • Cheddar
  • Emmental
  • Cheddar

Blue Cheese – An Unusual but Delicious Choice

Most people have heard of blue cheese, but don’t know that there are actually a wide variety of blue cheeses available to choose from. You can easily identify blue cheese by the bluish colour running through them. The flavour of these cheeses is typically salty, though other flavours can range from smoky, meaty, and very pungent to faintly caramel or chocolate in nature.

Blue Stilton being a prime example.