BASIC OF CHEESE

OVERVIEW

  • Cheese is a food derived from milk with literally thousands of variations of flavor, styles, and forms to enjoy.
  • Cheese is one of the world’s oldest type of food whose origins predate recorded history.
  • Cheese is valued for its nutrition. Cheese contains essential fats, proteins, enzymes, minerals (iron, salt, calcium, magnesium), and vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K).
  • Cheese is valued for its versatility. Depending upon the type of cheese, it can be consumed by itself, with crackers and bread, as a topping, as an ingredient, or as a dish baked or fried.
  • Like other great traditional foods such as wines, exploring cheese and its many varieties and types can open new worlds of taste and enjoyment.

TYPES OF CHEESE

  • Basically, cheese comes in four types or hardness; the softer the cheese, the younger it tends to be; similarly, the harder and drier usually means it is older or aged.
  • Cheese becomes harder as the moisture content is lost through evaporation; it also relates to the amount of fat in a given kind of cheese
Type : Fresh
Character : Very high in moisture; usually no aging or maturing; consumed very soon after making; no rind or skin; usually packed in a tub or plastic sleeve
Examples : Feta, Fresh Mozzarella
     
Type : Soft
Character : Slightly less moisture; matured for a short while; usually creamy; some are still spreadable; commonly has a slim white or off-white rind
Examples : Brie
     
Type : Semi-hard
Character : Firm, but not very hard; can be sliced or cut easily and mostly retains its shape; some may be a bit pliable; yellow, orange, or red rind that is smooth and may be washed in brine, beer, or wine
Examples : Edam, Gouda, Munster
     
Type : Hard
Character : Firm, hard, and usually crumbly; often used for grating or cooking; great for nibbling; rinds either trimmed off or left on
Examples : Cheddar, Emmental, Parmesan, Romano
     
Type : Blue-veined
Character : Soft or semi-hard cheeses that are injected with pure penicillin cultures (Penicillium roqueforti or Penicillium gorgonzolai) that grow and spread throughout the cheese in colorful and tasty veins or spots
Examples : Danish Blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton

SERVING CHEESE

  • Most cheeses are best served at room temperature or nearly so; cool to temperate cheeses are richer on the palette than cold cheese from the fridge.
  • Cheese should not be left out in warm temperatures, become sweaty or as they will dry out will turn bad fairly quickly – especially soft cheeses.
  • It is often better to serve cheeses in small quantities so that they can be replaced frequently with fresh.
  • Serve cheese with crackers, toasts, or a variety of breads on the side or in separate dishes as the moisture from the cheese will dampen them if the cheese is preset on top; if these are being served to guests while they are standing or mingling, then it is proper to have some pre-made as hors d’oeuvres.
  • Cutting boards, or a nice tray or plate will do fine; you can use a paper doily or lettuce leaves (patted dry) as your liner; garnish with cherries, cherry tomatoes, grapes, or strawberries.

STORING CHEESE

  • Most cheeses need to stay cool and free of air in order to stay fresh.
  • A refrigerator is best, most harder cheeses should be wrapped tightly in a plastic wrap, plastic bag, or wax paper; poor wrapping or air bubbles (other than what may be in the cheese) must be avoided as the air will enable mold to grow faster, or the cheese may dry out; some cheeses can be stored in covered containers.
  • When refrigerating cheese the average ideal temperature should be around 7ºC to 10ºC (45ºF to 50ºF)
  • Freezing cheese is not recommended (except hard, very old cheeses) as it has a tendency to dry out the cheese and alter its texture.
  • If your cheese has dried out on a corner or edge, or it has grown a little bit of white mold, simply cut off the offending bits and enjoy the remaining cheese.
  • Much of the mass-produced cheeses commonly found today have an expiry or best-before date on the packaging.

COOKING WITH CHEESE

  • Cheese is one of the most delicious and versatile ingredients in any kitchen.
  • Dull dinners or bland recipes can be easily improved up by adding cheese somewhere along the cooking process.
  • Cheeses added early will melt and blend with the cooked foods; add it later as a topping to let the cheese melt on top; softer cheeses can be melted to make a sauce or a bit can be added to an existing sauce to make it even more delicious.
  • Cream soups can be cheesed-up with a handful of grated Cheddar or Swiss; and don’t forget the classic onion soup – have some mozzarella on hand for topping off the toast; use your imagination!
  • A very simple snack for onion fanciers is to thinly slice some onion onto your favorite bread (such as 7-grain, sunflower, or rye) layer some cheddar, Gouda, or other medium or soft cheese, and toast it until the cheese melts – enjoy!
  • Rather scramble up some eggs? Add some shredded cheddar or a nugget of blue cheese just before the eggs are done.
  • There are many recipe books devoted to cheese and all the wonderful ways to enjoy it; try chicken breasts stuffed with cheese, potatoes au gratin, macaroni and cheese, cheese bread; the list is virtually endless.

CHEESE CUTTERS & SLICERS

  • Hard cheeses can be cut in advance or be served whole for your guests to slice.
  • There are a variety of cheese knives and cutters available from wires to special knives.
  • Wire and board cheese cutters have a length of wire attached to a wood or marble cutting board. The wire easily slices through the cheese.
  • Curved cheese knives has a butter-knife sharpness to it (sometimes sharper) and a curved tip with a pick point or two on the end for picking up the cheese.
  • Cheese slicers or shavers come in two basic kinds: a thin wire fixed to a forked handle or a spatula-type of slicer with a cutter in the middle; the spatula-type is particularly good on semi-hard cheeses for cutting thin slices.

WINE & CHEESE…The Magic Paring

  • Let your guests enjoy the wine they prefer while they enjoy their cheese.
  • Offer a selection of white and red wines from light to full bodied – encourage curiosity; it’s fun to make new discoveries.
  • As a general guide, full-bodied wines go better with full-flavored cheeses; young, soft, or mild cheeses do better with lighter wines.
  • Soft reds tend to not go well with rind-type cheeses or veined cheese.
  • Cheeses spiced with cloves or other strong flavors, such as pepper, often do not go well with any kind of wine.
  • Mild cheeses like Gouda and Edam are fine with a nice white wine, but actually are much more enjoyable with premium beer – especially a Dutch beer; similarly, try beverages native to the same country as the cheese.