Cheese 101: Introduction
At this point it should be obvious- we love cheese. With over eight years of hard work running our own cheese shops and all the trials and tribulations that come with it, that love hasn't diminished. What can we say? We're fanatics. From our first days, we've immersed ourselves in the world of fromage. We attended classes in New York, we studied every written morsel on cheese, we visited cheese makers, but above all, we tasted. From pungent to the most delicate flavors, we tried them all and eventually took the test offered by the American Cheese Society and became, Certified Cheese Professionals (think, a sommelier but for cheese).
Now we're here to bring our immense knowledge to you.
Though it may sound and taste complex, cheese is simply milk. The milk can come from a cow, a goat, a sheep, a water buffalo, whatever the case may be, cheese always starts with milk. From there it undergoes numerous processes to become the beloved product you get in our boxes.
Without getting too much into the science (yet!), here is a rough breakdown of the seven styles of cheese.
As the name implies, this cheese is barely aged at all. It is meant to be consumed shortly after purchasing, these cheeses are rindless, soft and have very smooth milky flavors.
Think: young, tart, tangy, citrusy, smooth, moist, creamy.
Taste: fresh goat cheese, mozzarella, feta, ricotta, burrata
We've all seen this quintessential cheese. The perfect white round, typically flanked by a crusty baguette and a glass of red wine. It's almost cliché, but there it is, Brie, that ubiquitous French cheese that belongs to the bloomy family. Bloomy cheeses, simply put, are cheeses that have a white, edible rind. Called bloomy because they appear to be blooming when seen under a microscope; they are usually soft, spreadable, and of course, delicious on a baguette.
Think: white, buttery, decadent, fluffy, rich, a wide range of flavors from mild to mushroom
Taste: Brie, Camembert, Harbison, Humboldt Fog, Triple-Cremes
Side note: Though technically still considered a bloomy rind, upon introducing the culture of geotrichum, these cheeses develop the appearance of being, well, brainy. These wrinkly cousins of bloomy brie are yeasty, nutty and bright.
The name says it all; these cheeses are defined by their pliable, almost springy, texture. Perfect for cooking and melting, they are often mild with grassy and earthy notes.
Think: soil, mineral, leeks, honey, fresh cut grass
Taste: Fontina Val d'Aosta, Morbier, Pawlet, Reading, Raclette
Encapsulating a broad swath of cheese, from Cheddar to Manchego, firm cheeses are more dense than semi-soft yet remain supple. They have a noticeable rind, and their flavors run anywhere from bright lemon to hazelnuts. It is in this style of cheese that one may first start to notice the small protein crystals called Tyrosine, responsible for that slight, enjoyable crunch in more aged cheeses.
Think: Dense but supple, grassy, eggy, fruity, sharp.
Taste: Cheddar, Gruyere, Manchego, Ossau Iraty, Comte, Verano
These harder cheese have more intensely developed flavors of caramel and molasses. Tyrosine crystals are abundant yielding to a granular texture.
Think: Umami, butterscotch, broth, leather, caramel
Taste: Gouda, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Sbrinz
Funky, barnyardy and stinky are the words most often used to describe washed rind cheeses. These cheeses are typically soft to semi-soft in texture and have a strong aroma. Often the smell is stronger than the flavor. As the name suggests, these cheeses are washed with a brine solution as they age. Sometimes that solution will include wine, beer or spirits. By washing the cheese, the surface becomes very hospitable to the desired bacteria called Brevibacterium which contributes to its smell and rind color. The color can range from pink, dark orange to red.
Think: pungent, stinky, fruity, meaty, intense, aromatic. Vibrant pink, red to orange edible rinds.
Taste: Taleggio, Limburger, Epoisses, Munster, Oma, Sawtooth, Winnimere
Perhaps the most polarizing of cheese, people either love them or hate them, blue cheese is a mouthwatering proposition. They range from dry and crumbly like Stilton to creamy and smooth like Roquefort. The one thing in common is the blue/green veins that run through these cheeses. Most often the mold is Penicillium Roqueforti a harmless blue mold that is responsible for the minerally, punchy flavor.
Think: mold, veins, craters, big flavors, salty, sharp-edged, punchy, spicy, minerally
Taste: Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton, Bayley Hazen Blue, Glacier Blue, Point Reyes Blue