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How to: Understanding Cheese Types

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Why are some cheeses soft and supple while others are hard and pungent? Learn it all right here.


Let’s face it, cheese is delicious. And it’s nutritious. I don’t care how much my doctor moans about cholesterol; it’s a dairy food! But cholesterol watchers can be rest assured that cheese is genuine, whether it’s made from whole, low fat, or skim milk. Some cheeses are less ripened, soft and moist. Others are well aged and dry. Try these, the greatest types of cheese on the planet:

different cheese types mozzarella

Mozzarella


Sure, you’ve had the packaged cheese on the shelf—but have you ever looked for the natural version? Slightly less ripened than the familiar kind, it comes in small balls nestled in a bit of liquid in the package. It tastes slightly less salty, and its pristine flavor is the reason why I grate it and pair it with pasta instead of opting for a “shaker” of parmesan.

Cheddar


It's the most popular cheese in America. This is one of the ripened, hard cheese types—the more aged, the less moisture—and it tastes best when it’s made from whole milk and aged quite a bit. I slice it and dice it and it makes everything better—from toasted cheese sandwiches to broccoli to macaroni and cheese. Or just eat it!

Gouda


This is one of those types of cheese that often come in a wax casing. It’s also generally semisoft and mild. Once I melted it over a bowl of French onion soup, I swore off using any other kind. It’s also great with crackers or on a fruit dessert platter. Edam gives you a very similar experience.

Havarti


This cheese used to be difficult to find, but these days it’s everywhere. I love its semisoft texture paired with herb or even garlic flavoring.

Swiss


Another familiar cheese—with less moisture than many—but you haven’t tried Swiss cheese until you buy some Jarlsburg (“yarlsburg”). The flavor gets you right in the taste buds, and you’ll never want any other Swiss. You can also grate this up very finely and mix it with cream cheese and very finely minced onions for a spread to kill for.

Asiago


Have you only used this grated? Even though it’s dry and well ripened, look for a package that’s been aged under a year and just slice it. Like Jarlsburg, its flavor is bold and memorable.

Ricotta


This is a soft, unripened cheese—very high in moisture—and Feta is a little more aged and shaped. Besides using the ricotta in lasagna and the feta in Greek salads, I layer them on pizza crusts or in puff pastry recipes. Sometimes I just stuff this type of cheese into mushrooms or black olives and then bake them.

Blue Cheese


This type cheese has those little veins that people try to avoid because they’re—yes! Mold! But give this dry crumbly treasure a try, even if at first it’s only as a salad additive. The flavor is so thoughtful you’ll reach for it again. Then you can get audacious: Stir it into a thin white sauce until it melts, and then serve it over pasta and shrimp.

Wine and Cheese Party Ideas


Using cheese for entertaining can be a fun and easy way to make a simple hang out with friends a little more interesting. Jackie Fo. offers up some great ideas on how to host an awesome wine and cheese party.

How To Video: Create a Gourmet Cheese Plate


If you want to know even more about cheese varieties and how to serve them, watch this video by celebrity chef, Terrance Brennan. He'll show you how to create a stunning gourmet cheese plate that delivers both style and flavor.



How to create a gourmet cheese plate
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