The Big Cheese(s)

The Big Cheese(s)

Four to be precise

Sometimes people jokingly remark, “Life should come with an instruction manual.” A definitive reference text of the sort would be helpful. Life is fraught with uncertain, anxiety-provoking situations—especially social ones. Take dinner parties for example: it’s an unavoidable fact of life that from time to time we’ll be invited to someone’s home for food and drink and have to mingle with both close acquaintances and, God forbid, perfect strangers. If luck’s on your side, there will be ample fodder for conversation so as to avoid awkward silence. If luck’s not on your side, you’ll have to rack your brain to come up with conversation topics. It’s in these very moments that an instruction manual would come in handy. How does one navigate such peril? You could feign an interest in sports, but that’ll only carry you so far. You could talk about politics, but there you run the risk of being offensive or uninformed. Or you could just gravitate towards the closest cheese platter and share with your peers a rudimentary, yet sound knowledge of cheese. This is a safe conversational middle ground. Not a cheese connoisseur? Don’t worry—here’s a basic outline of four different cheeses. File it for future reference in your personal life instruction manual.
There are various ways to classify cheeses such as methods of making, country or region of origin, the type of animal milk used, and so forth. For our purposes, we’ll delineate between the various types of cheese based on animal milk and how that influences flavor.

Cow milk cheese

Kitchen Stories

The majority of cheeses are made from cow’s milk. The diet of cows mainly consists of ground cover grass, which is why cow’s milk cheese tends to be earthy in flavor. Cow’s milk cheese can be subdivided—and this is also true for sheep’s and goat’s milk cheeses—into soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, and hard cheeses. The following are common types of the aforementioned:
Soft: Cream cheese, Mascarpone, Munster, Brie, Gorgonzola
Semi-soft: Colby, Taleggio, Havarti, Butterkäse
Semi-hard: Cheddar, Stilton, Gouda, Provolone, Monterey Jack
Hard: Gruyere, Parmesan, Asiago, Cotija, Cheddar

Goat

Kitchen Stories

The diet of goats differs from that of cows in that they have stronger stomachs and gravitate towards more bitter vegetation like brambles and thorny grasses. This directly affects the taste of their milk—which tends to be somewhat acrid—and, in turn, the flavor of their cheese. Goat’s milk cheese is tangy and generally lighter and sweeter than cow’s milk cheese. Here are some common varieties:
Soft: Bucheron, Golden Cross, Sainte-Maure de Touraine
Semi-soft: Humboldt Fog, Clochette, Charolais
Semi-hard: Majorero
Hard: Garrotxa

Sheep

Kitchen Stories

Sheep’s milk has a higher fat content than cow and goat’s milk. This results in cheese that is more buttery and rich. Sheep also only tend to eat sweet, tender grass—as opposed to cows who are less selective—and this contributes to the less aggressive flavor profile of their cheese. Here’s an outline of some basic types:
Soft: Fleur du Maquis
Semi-hard: Feta, Yorkshire Blue, Roquefort
Hard: Pecorino Sardo, Pecorino Romano, Manchego

Buffalo

Kitchen Stories

Buffalo cheese is made from the milk of water buffalos. Their milk is very fatty and rich (in fact, there is 100% more fat content in buffalo milk than cow milk), which renders it indigestible for drinking, but great for cheese making. Buffalo milk’s cheese is very creamy, delicate, and smooth. These are the most common buffalo milk’s cheeses that one can expect to find:
Soft: Mozzarella di Bufala Campana
Semi-soft: Buffalo Blue