How to Identify Cheese
One of the first steps in becoming more knowledgeable about cheese and how to buy it is to learn how to identify the various kinds of cheese you come across.
At first, it may seem very confusing, but once you understand the different characteristics of a cheese like type of milk, processing, texture, and so forth, it will help you discover what cheeses you prefer and why. Below are some important characteristics to help you make those decisions.
Type of milk:
|Cow's milk||Goats' milk||Sheep's milk|
Fresh - usually unripened and packed into tubs or crocks
Ripened but unpressed - quick-ripened (1 month) by surface molds; allowed to drain naturally
Uncooked but Pressed - pressed and ripened from 2 to 18 months (Gouda)
Cooked & Pressed - cooked, then molded, heavily pressed, and then ripened for up to 4 years
Very soft - fresh, spoonable (Burrata, Cottage Cheese, Mascarpone, Cream Cheese, Ricotta)
Soft - neither cooked nor pressed, spreadable (Brie)
Semi-soft - pressed, can or cannot be pressed, firm but moist, sometimes crumbly (Cashel Blue, Chabichou du Poitou, Morbier)
Semi-hard - cooked and pressed, sliceable
Hard - cooked and pressed, very firm, can be both sliced and grated (Aged Gouda, Petit Basque, Cheddar, Parmesan, Pecorino)
Shapes: 6 basic shapes:
Cheese colors can range from white to yellow to chocolate brown in various shade degrees. Much depends on the ripening length and how much butter fat is present.
Rule of thumb: the longer the ripening, and the more butter fat content, the darker the cheese.
Dry Natural Rinds - are formed by the curds on the edge of the cheese as it dries out.
Soft White Bloomy Rinds - have a thin or thick growth of white mold on the surface.
Washed Rinds - a smeary bacterial growth washed by water, wine, or brine.