Cheese can be made from a variety of milks, not only from cows, but from goats, sheep and buffalos. Cheese comes in many different colours, textures, tastes and appearances. Cheese is used mostly for sandwich fillings, in day to day cooking and as an everyday snack with crackers/ biscuits.
Cheese is naturally the colour of the milk from which it is made. Cheesemakers colour their cheeses so they will look uniformly nutritious. The cheeses with bright orange to red hues (Cheshire, Red Leicester) get their crimson colouring from annatto. Annatto is a natural food colouring derived from the ground seed pods of the annatto tree, native to Central and South America. The earliest colourings were carrot juice and marigold petals.
Cheese should always be stored in a cool environment-the bottom of the refrigerator is the best place. It should be either wrapped tightly in foil or wax paper or stored in an air tight container to prevent it drying out. Cheese can be frozen, but this is not really recommended as the texture a flavour are likely to be affected. The only exception is Stilton, being an open-textured cheese (not pressed) it is ideal for freezing - simply cut into portions wrap in foil and keep it for up to 3 months. To bring out the true flavour and aroma of cheese, it should always be served at room temperature. Take it out of the fridge at least two hours before serving and leave loosely wrapped, until ready.
A Variety of Cheeses
CHEDDAR ~ this classic hard cow’s milk cheese is well-known and widely loved. It’s a great cooking cheese, whether you want to make macaroni cheese or cheese on toast. Cheddar originated from Somerset around the late 12th Century and took its name from the Gorge or caves in the town of Cheddar that were used to store the cheese. The constant temperature and humidity of the caves provided a perfect environment for maturing the cheese. Local legend has it that Cheddar cheese was discovered when some milk was left in a cave by accident by a milk maid. Today Cheddar cheese is still made in Somerset but also all over the world. Cheddar is one of the most widely made cheeses in the world. Cheddars vary in flavour depending on the length of aging and their origin. As cheddar slowly ages, it loses moisture and its texture becomes drier and more crumbly. Sharpness becomes noticeable at 12 months. Strong, extra-mature Cheddar, sometimes called vintage, needs to be matured for up to 15 months. So, be it mild, medium or sharp, this cheese is one of the most versatile. Scotty enjoys a extra-old white Canadian cheddar. Myself, I prefer a nice mild white cheddar.
CAERPHILLY ~ is a mild, crumbly salty cheese originally made in Caerphilly in south Wales in around
1830. Caerphilly cheese was traditionally eaten by miners to replace the salt they lost whilst working down the mines.
CHESHIRE ~ Possibly England’s oldest cheese. Firm, slightly crumbly, salty, and tangy. Its unique flavour derives from sodium deposits in nearby grazing pastures. Cheshire goes particularly well with fruit cake, figs or dates, as the acidity complements the sweetness of the fruit.
RED LEICESTER ~ a russet red cheese with a clean, mellow and tangy flavour. Red Leicester is a good melting cheese and gives sauces and soups an attractive colour and distinctive flavour. Red Leicester cheese was originally made on farms surrounding the city to use up excess milk left over from the production of Stilton cheese. It was thought to be originally coloured with carrot juice to give it its distinctive red colour. Nowadays it is coloured with annatto. It is traditionally made in a large cartwheel shape.
PORT SALUT ~ is a semi-hard French cow's milk cheese which is characterised by its distinctive bright orange rind and pale yellow interior. It was originally made by the monks of the abbey of Notre Dame de Port Salut in Mayenne, Brittany. It gives off a pungent aroma but has a mellow flavour and a smooth, springy texture. Port Salut is delicious served with fruit, bread or biscuits.
PECORINO ~ is a hard, grainy cheese which is similar to Parmesan. It has a sharp flavour. Pecorino can be served as part of a cheeseboard and goes particularly well with grapes and melon. It is also used in cooking and is a very good grating cheese.
PARMAGIANO REGGIANO ~ or PARMESAN as it is more widl ey known, originates from Parma in Italy and is one of the world's most popular and widely-enjoyed cheeses. It has a very hard grainy texture and is a pale yellow colour. It has a very distinctive smell and flavour. Grate it on hot dishes or mix it with softer, milder cheeses and include in sauces. For an impressive-looking finishing touch for any pasta dish, make Parmesan shavings with a potato peeler.
MOZZARELLA ~ is a firm, soft cheese with a creamy colour and a milky flavour. It was traditionally made from buffalo's milk but now is also made with cow's milk. Mozzarella melts beautifully and has a unique stretchy texture. It is sold in medium-sized rounds, and because it has no rind, it is packed in plastic bags and surrounded by water to keep it fresh. Mozzarella is the classic cheese used for topping pizza, but is also good on pasta bakes. Also delicious raw with ripe tomatoes and fresh basil for a quick salad.
PANEER ~ a traditional pressed curd cheese which was originally made at home in India. Paneer has a smooth, firm texture and a bland taste that absorbs other flavours very well. It is similar in texture to tofu or beancurd. Paneer is usually sliced or diced and included in a variety of traditional Indian dishes including meat and vegetable curries and in accompanying vegetable dishes.
EMMENTAL ~ a firm rich cheese easily recognised by its large holes (which are produced by trapped bubbles of gas in the production process). It is a pale yellow colour and has a mild, sweetish flavour, it is a very good melting cheese. A good choice for grilled sandwiches and baked dishes.
GRUYERE ~ the famous cheese from Switzerland, its named after the Swiss town where it was originally made. The sweetest, nuttiest flavour of all the true Swiss cheeses. Its distinctive flavour is mellow, nutty and rich. Gruyère is a good melting cheese to combine with the stronger flavour of Parmesan.
EDAM ~ has a mild, delicate taste, a firm cheese with a red wax coating. Almost completely round. Its one of Holland’s premiere cheeses. Used for desserts, appetizers and cheeseboards. Goes very with fresh fruit too.
BOURSIN ~ is a modern, creamy, fresh cheese and is produced in a cylindrical shape without a rind and was first made by Monsieur Boursin in 1957. It is often flavoured with garlic and herbs and has a rich, sweet flavour with a hint of acidity. Great for spreading and baking.
BRIE ~ is the one of the best-known cheeses originating from France. It is a soft, creamy coloured, smooth, plump and glossy cheese with a thin edible white mould rind and is made in large flat wheels. Brie has a full fruity and mildly tangy flavour with a hint of mushrooms from the rind.
CAMEMBERT ~ one of the most well-known French cheeses, Camembert was originally produced in Normandy but is now made all over the world. It is a creamy, soft cheese with an aroma of mushrooms and a delicate salty taste. Camembert has a soft buttery texture and gets creamier over time and ripens from a mild to a rich pungent flavour. It is made in rounds and has a soft edible rind. Camembert is delicious with a green salad or deep-fried in breadcrumbs.
GOAT'S CHEESE ~ 'Chevre' is the generic name for French cheeses that are made from pasteurised goat's milk. This cheese can be molded into any shape. Comes plain or coated with herbs, pepper, or edible vegetable ash. Used for relishes, appetizers, sauces, and compliments any cheese board. Goes with crackers and fruit.
CREAM CHEESE (soft cheese) ~ fresh smooth cheese with a mild flavour and velvety texture. It is available plain or flavoured with herbs and garlic. cream cheese can be used cooked or uncooked in savoury pies and baking. It is also used in cheesecakes and other desserts.
MASCARPONE ~ a soft, white cheese from the Lombardy region of southern Italy. It is made in the same way as yogurt - a culture is added to the cream skimmed off the milk and used in the production of Parmesan cheese. It is used in puddings like tiramisu. It can also be included in savoury sauces as it melts well, to add a creamy texture and rich taste.
A blue cheese is a creamy white-coloured cheese which has blue veins running through it. The veins are formed when a mould culture is added to milk at the beginning of the cheese-making process.
Blue cheese makes a great accompaniment to fruits and nuts, especially pears, or sweeter fruit like dates or ripe figs.
STILTON ~ is one of the most popular and well-known British cheeses. Blue Stilton is a rich and creamy semi-hard cheese with a nutty aroma. It has a rich, mellow flavour which strengthens as it matures, and has an abundance of blue veins. Stilton was traditionally best at Christmas when the cheeses were made in early autumn from milk enriched by late summer meadows, and then matured through the following months. Port is the classic drink to accompany Stilton, but it also goes well with a sweet white wine. Used for dessert, cheese trays, dips and salads. Goes with fresh fruit and bland crackers.
GORGONZOLA ~ Italy’s oldest blue cheese. Its greenish-blue mould imparts a sharp, spicy flavour. It ranges in colour from white to straw-yellow pierced with the unmistakable marbled green or bluish-green mould. The taste of Gorgonzola ranges from mild to sharp, depending on age. Good with salads.
DOLCELATTE ~ also known as Sweet Gorgonzola. Aged only slightly and meant to be eaten when young. A mild, creamy and slightly sweet blue-veined cheese from the Lombardy region of Italy. Dolcelatte is delicious spread over warm crusty bread, crumbled in salads, salad dressings or over pasta dishes. It can also be used in cooking and melts into sauces and soups.
ROQUEFORT ~ “The king of cheeses" One of the most famous blue cheeses, this popular cheese is produced in the French village of Roquefort sur Soulzon and is made from unpasteurised milk from specially bred sheep. The cheese is left to mature in naturally damp limestone caves where the mould Pencillium rouqeforti causes the characteristic blue veining. It has a creamy white appearance and a sweetish flavour. A tasty addition to a cheeseboard, Roquefort can also be included in dressings, salads, pasta dishes or quiches.
A selection of Recipes using Cheese
Hasselback Potatoes with Parmesan topping
Cheese & Onion Pies
Cheesy Fish Bake
A selection of Chutneys, Relishes & Pickles to go with Cheese