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The Different Types of Cheese Every Foodie Should Know

Cheese is a tasty treat that is incredibly versatile. There are so many different cheeses to choose from, and so many different ways to enjoy them.

There are hundreds of different cheese varieties across the globe. Traditionally made from cow’s milk, cheese can be made from the milk of other mammals, too.

Sheep and goat cheeses are very popular, but you can also find cheese made from the milk of buffalo, camels, reindeer, and even yaks.

a few different types of cheese on a board

So with such a variety of cheese to choose from, how can you find your next favorite cheese? One way is to work your way through the different types of cheese from our list below.

While there are hundreds of different cheeses across the world, they can all be roughly sorted into different types of cheese.

Hard Cheese

The clue is in the name of this type of cheese. Hard cheese is firm, and is most often savory in flavor. These types of cheese include parmesan and manchego. 

Hard cheese is made by separating and draining away most of the whey from the source milk. Once cheesemakers have the curd, this is then pressed. The pressed curd is then either waxed, or brined to create a hard rind – the outer part of the cheese.

The rind isn’t always edible, so it’s important you check this before you eat your hard cheese, as you may need to cut it away. It can, however, add some great flavor to sauces, soups, and stews.

Once the cheese has been waxed or had the rind developed, it is then left to mature. This typically takes between 2 and 36 months depending on the cheese. It can even take much longer than this depending on the variety of cheese!

Hard cheeses are left to age because this helps to refine the flavor. It makes them even tastier, grainier in texture, and less creamy.

Hard cheese tends to be crumbly, dry, and great for grating over your hot dishes to add more flavor.

Some of the most popular hard cheeses include:

  • Parmesan
  • Manchego
  • Grana Padano
  • Pecorino Romano
  • Gruyere
  • Emmental
  • Mimolette
piece of parmesan cheese on a wooden board
piece of parmesan cheese on a wooden board

Parmesan Cheese

One of the most popular hard cheeses around the world is parmesan. The original parmesan is known as Parmigiano Reggiano, and originated in Italy.

Parmesan is made from cow’s milk and tends to be sold at varying stages of the maturation process. It can take anything between 14 months up to 2 years to create the perfect parmesan cheese.

Semi-hard Cheese

Semi-hard cheese isn’t as firm as hard cheese, and they don’t take as long to mature, either. Semi-hard cheeses are among some of the most popular cheeses around the world, including cheddar, Jarlsberg, and gouda.

These cheeses tend to deliver the perfect blend of aridity and moisture which work to give you savory and tangy flavors. 

Semi-hard cheeses have a firm, slightly springy texture in comparison to hard cheeses. It tends to be quite dense in consistency. This cheese is made by pressing curds until they form a solid, squeezing out any remaining whey.

Semi-hard cheese is then taken from their molds. Some of these cheeses such as Jarlsberg then receive a coating of wax, which removes the need for brine.

Semi-hard cheeses typically are matured for between 1 and 6 months, however, it tends to vary depending on the variety of cheese.

Seeing as semi-hard cheeses take less than a year to mature, they tend to be milder in flavor than some of the hard cheeses we’ve mentioned above.

These types of cheeses have fantastic melting properties, and tend to spread evenly once grated. It’s also much easier to slice this cheese as it doesn’t have a crumbly texture.

Some of the most popular semi-hard cheeses include:

  • Cheddar
  • Jarlsberg
  • Colby
  • Gouda
  • Havarti
  • Comté
block of cheddar cheese grated on a table
block of cheddar cheese grated

Cheddar Cheese

Hands down one of the most popular cheeses to use in a variety of recipes, cheddar cheese originates from Cheddar, England. The little village of Cheddar in Somerset is close to some deep caves, which the cheesemakers found perfect for maturing the cheese.

Cheddar is now enjoyed across the world, and can vary in flavor depending on various factors including milk origin and type of rennet used.

Blue Cheese

Blue mold cheese, also known as blue cheese, is a favorite snack for many. This particular type of cheese uses a different manufacturing process, as it needs the addition of mold cultures to create that legendary blue mold interior. 

The origin of blue cheese is rumored to have been back in the 7th century. It is said that a shepherd left his bread and cheese lunch inside a cave near the village of Roquefort, France.

When he remembered to return for it, he discovered the cheese had become infested with the mold growing inside the cave, known as Penicillium roqueforti. This natural mold has been refined, and is now used for nearly all blue cheeses across the globe.

Blue cheese is made by adding the mold culture to the cheese milk. Oxygen needs to reach the inside of the cheese in order for it to turn blue. Cheesemakers achieve this by piercing the cheese with skewers or thin needles.

The craved blue mold will then mature inside the air tunnels, and will develop in flavor as it ages. Typically, mold-containing cheese tends to mature between 3 to 6 months. Blue cheeses mature from the inside out.

Some of the most popular blue mold cheese include:

  • Stilton
  • Roquefort
  • Gorgonzola
  • Danish blue
  • Maytag
Gorgonzola cheese with ciabatta bread on rustic wooden cutting board
Gorgonzola cheese with ciabatta bread on rustic wooden cutting board

Gorgonzola Cheese

Another famous Italian cheese, gorgonzola is a creamy, blue-veined cheese made from whole unpasteurized cow’s milk. It originates from a small town near Milan, and is now made by more than 80 producers worldwide, including in America.

Gorgonzola cheese is injected with a sharp, spicy greenish-blue mold which helps to create a flavor contrast to the creaminess of the cheese.

White Cheese

White mold cheeses tend to be made using cow’s milk. These cheeses have a buttery, mild taste.

Similar to the production of blue mold cheese, white mold cheese requires the addition of white mold culture to its curd in order to get it to develop the recognizable white bloom on the cheese surface. This cheese is then left for anywhere between 4 to 9 weeks to ripen.

The longer the white mold cheese is stored for, the softer it becomes. You can find out whether the white mold cheese is mature enough to eat by squeezing its sides gently. The white mold cheese should bulge in the middle, and yield to your touch.

The white, bloomy rinds can vary in thickness depending on the cheese. This fluffy rind helps to protect the soft, tasty innards, and saves the cheese from being spoiled.

As the cheese ages, it will become softer in the center, and tends to get stronger in flavor. White mold cheese is a staple of many cheese boards.

Some of the most popular white mold cheeses include:

  • Brie
  • Creamy brie
  • Camembert
  • Goat Cheese
  • Coeur de Chevre
  • Neufchatel
brie cheese on a wooden board with walnuts
brie cheese

Brie

Brie is perhaps one of the most loved white mold cheeses produced across the world. This cheese originates from France, and is made using cow’s milk.

Brie is named after the French region where it originated from. Unlike many other kinds of cheese, you can actually eat the rind of your brie.

Fresh Cheese

Fresh cheese is the name for cheeses which have been made using fresh curds that haven’t been aged or pressed. These are some of the most common cheeses to use in cooking, and make an excellent substitute for cream.

These types of cheese have a mild, savory flavor compared to other harder cheeses, and make great compliments to a variety of dishes.

Seeing as these cheeses haven’t been aged, they don’t come with rinds. If the cheese is grainy in texture it tends to be referred to as cottage cheese. If the cheese is smooth and creamy, it’s referred to as cream cheese.

There is a vast variety of fresh cheeses available for you to choose from, and all come with such great variations in flavor and texture.

Some of the most popular fresh cheeses include:

  • Cream cheese
  • Feta
  • Mozzarella
  • Burrata
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Ricotta
  • Mascarpone
Homemade Organic Mozzarella Cheese with Tomato and Basil
Homemade Organic Mozzarella Cheese with Tomato and Basil

Mozzarella Cheese

Mozzarella is another classic Italian cheese, and it’s highly popular as a pizza topping. This cheese is traditionally made in southern Italy from Italian buffalo’s milk. Fresh mozzarella tends to be white in color, but can vary depending on the animal’s diet.

Because of its high moisture content, fresh mozzarella is traditionally served the day after it’s been made. Some low moisture mozzarella is sold in stores and can be kept for up to 6 months. Mozzarella is also a great addition to various salads.

In summary

So there you have it! While there are hundreds of different cheese varieties around the world, they can all be roughly sorted into the above categories.

This should help you to find your next favorite cheese, or help you work your way through all the fine cheeses that dairies around the globe have to offer.

Have you got a favorite cheese? Let us know all about it in the comments below!

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Written by Erin B.

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.