Cheese is a dairy product made from milk that comes in a whole host of flavors, styles, shapes, and more. It is usually made from milk that comes from cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep.
Here is an interesting fact: Cheese is a food that pre-dates recorded history and historians are unsure where exactly it originated. It is thought to have been discovered sometime around 8000 BC when the first sheep had been domesticated.
The word cheese is derived from the Latin word, caseus, which was in turn derived from another word that means to ferment of sour. This makes sense, because it is considered an acidic ingredient when it comes to cooking.
Today, there are more than 1,000 types being made in countries all over the world. Cheesemaking is considered an artisanal art form in many regions and rightly so, as it can be a painstaking and time-consuming process.
Every variety is made a little differently, but the basic ingredients for making a natural cheese include milk, salt, a good bacterium, and rennet, which is an enzyme.
From there, it is all about mold, salting, shaping, washes, ripening time, and other techniques to make all the lovely styles that are out there.
Here are some tasty recipes using cheese:
- King Ranch Chicken Casserole
- Pimento Cheese
- Baked Kale Gratin
- Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- Homemade Mozzarella Cheese
What are the categories of cheese?
There is no concrete consensus on the number of categories, but I like to think there are 7 categories. I’ve outlined them below:
This type does not have a rind and has not been allowed to age at all. It is best eaten the day of or within a couple of days of making it. Think mozzarella, ricotta, cotija, paneer, halloumi, or even crumbly feta.
This category is springy in texture and mildly flavored. They are great melting cheeses. Examples of this include Havarti, Colby, or Muenster.
Here you have cheese curds that are heated, pressed, molded, and left to age from 3-9 months or longer. This style includes things like cheddar, gouda, and manchego.
These are pressed and packed in molds for a long period of time and have the least amount of water content compared to the other styles. Parmesan and asiago are probably the two most well known in this category.
I think this goes without saying, but this style has a mottled appearance with spots of blue, green, or gray throughout. Mold cultures injected into the cheese cause this, and these tend to have a sharp, salty flavor and one heck of an aroma. Gorgonzola and stilton are two examples of this style.
Most cheeses are encased in a rind and will firm up over time as they lose moisture content. That is the exact opposite of what happens in this style and here, mold on the rind actually softens the inside over time. This group includes brie and camembert.
This group is sometimes referred to as “stinky” and for good reason. Many of the cheeses in this grouping are straight-up funk-town in terms of smell. They often have a reddish or orange rind and can vary in terms of soft, semi-hard or hard. Taleggio is a great example.
Is cheese healthy to eat?
While cheese certainly packs in the calories, fat, and sodium, it is also a great source of calcium, protein, and other nutrients. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, but eaten in moderation, I think you are fine.
How do I stop it from molding?
The best way to do this is to take your cheese out of the plastic wrap it came in, re-wrap it in a bit of wax or butcher paper, and put it into an air-tight container in the fridge.
Is American cheese, cheese?
In my eyes, yes. Ask a cheese monger and they will undoubtedly tell you no. Technically speaking, it is a “cheese product” and does not carry the designation of being real cheese.