When one thinks of cheese, the first images most likely come to one’s mind would be a tin or cubes of commercially available branded cheeses one picks up from a neighborhood grocery store – varieties would mean cheese, spread or slices.
Many of us are beginning to develop a fondness for rare wines, great cigars and fine chocolates but too few of us have made the same leap with regard to gourmet cheese. Once you discover the world of cheese beyond individually-wrapped slices and gooey pizza toppings, you will become as passionate as the most devoted connoisseur.
Gourmet cheeses are edible miracles that stimulate the senses in ways that no other food can match. In France, there is a saying that “cheese is milk’s leap toward immortality.” This quote of course does not refer to cheeses like the mild, gummy yellow cheddar that so many of us select as our default choice. Rather, it speaks to the supple, aromatic, savory cheeses made by skilled artisans in remote regions of the world.
Cheeses loosely fall into three categories. Industrial cheeses are produced for food processors who need bulk amounts of cheese to use as an ingredient in cheese-flavored foods. Commercial, mass-produced cheeses consist of waxy, pedestrian cheeses such as yellow Cheddar.
Finally, gourmet cheeses are of a premium-quality and are prepared to elevated standards by fine craftsmen and craftswomen. They are made only from selected milk stock and thus each variety can only be produced in its particular geographic region.
True Roquefort only comes from Southern France, just as true Fontina can only be made of milk from Italy’s Val d’Aosta region. The distinct grasses and herbs indigenous to these regions are eaten by the milk-producing cows, goats and sheep and impart certain qualities to the cheeses that cannot be reproduced elsewhere.
Port Salut: Once made by Trappist monks who sold the formula and name to a French factory. Smooth, mellow with a slight tang.
Parmesan: The cheese you sprinkle over pasta tastes good eaten on its own. A very hard cheese, it is easily grated.
Emmenthal: Switzerland’s most famous cheese, also made in France. Tears in the eyes mean a ripe cheese
Leicester Usually available as red when the colour comes from food dye. Firm and smooth with a natural edible rind.
Edam: Best known Dutch cheese. Made partially with skimmed milk and has lower fat content.
Cambozole: A newly invented cheese known collectively as blue brie. Enriched with cream and is as much as 70 percent fat.
Cheddar: The most widely eaten cheese in the world and one of the oldest. Originally English, now made all over the world. Dyes added to get red cheddar.
Gruyere: The body and soul of fondues and excellent for sauces. Sweet with a fruity flavour.
Gouda: Made from full cream milk, young goudas are mild and buttery but a mature gouda is more tangy with a spicy aroma.
Feta Cheese: The most famous Greek cheese though this feta is probably Danish. Original made with ewe or goat’s milk.
Pyrenees: A French cheese with a distinct look and a mild, almost bland taste.
Ricotta: Originally made from goat’s milk, but now mixed with cow’s milk or even just cow’s milk alone. May come stepped in wine, oil and herbs.
Royal Blue: A Danish blue made as a substitute for Requefort.
Mozzarella: A sliceable fresh curd cheese, bland with a hint of sour and a pleasant elastic texture.
Bonbel: The French version of Edam sold in single portion wheels.
Boursin: Made with triple cream to give it a rich flavour. Otherwise it is mild and often flavoured with garlic, herbs or peppercorns.
Leyden: The caraway seeds liven this mild, almost bland, cheese.
Fancy Cream Cheese: To qualify as a cream cheese, it must have at least 45 per cent cream.
Camembert: The king of French cheese. Tender yet firm rind around a thick creamy cheese.
Havarti: A Danish cheese named after a famous cheesemaker. May be enriched with more cream for a buttery flavour.
Brie: A famous French cheese that goes back to the 13th century. Easy to like with a full fruity flavour, sweet and with a firm edible rind.
Chevre Fermier: A generic name for goat’s milk cheeses which have a chalky texture and can smell quite frankly of goat.
Roquefort: The queen cheese dates back to the Gauls and is made with ewe’s milk. Has to be made only in the limestone caves of Combalou in france to be a Roquefort.
Stilton: The king of English cheeses is protected by law and must be made only in certain counties in England. It is sometimes sold in pots to protect the unpressed cheese.
Raclette: The word means “scraper” and the cheese is used in a Swiss dish of the same name where melting cheese is scraped off and eaten with boiled potatoes.