We like to separate cheeses into general categories that are easily understood. There are numerous ways to categorize cheese including methods of production (blued, cooked, pressed etc…), aging characteristics (fresh vs aged) and texture (soft, firm, hard etc…). For this section, we opted for a simple and commonly accepted classification that focuses on some combination of the three.
- Fresh, unripened cheeses are those cheeses that may or may not be cultured but which in all cases have not been aged and are intended to be consumed soon after production. Cheeses in this category include queso fresco, cream cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, mascarpone, quark, fromage frais and fresh goat’s milk cheeses such as Cornilly frais or Rawson Brook Dairy’s Monterey Fresh Chevre.
- Mold-ripened cheeses are those that have been aged to allow molds to grow on their exterior to create a rind. In some cases, a specific mold culture is added to the milk or is sprayed on the fresh cheese to produce a soft rind that is often described as “bloomy”. These cheeses ripen from the outside in. Brie, and Brillat Savarin are good examples of this style. Lightly aged goat’s milk cheeses such as Chevrot are also in this category.
- Washed-rind cheeses are those that are washed as they age with brine, beer, or eau de vie among other things. This repeated washing discourages some molds from growning while encouraging others. One mold in particular, called Brevibacterium linens, thrives in this type of damp environment. B. Linens, as it is often called, imparts a peachy color to the rind and is also responsible for some of the stinkier cheeses you might encounter. The moist rinds also help the breakdown of the interior of the cheese for a softer texture. Cheeses such as Taleggio, Epoisses and Charmoix fall into this category.
- Semi-hard cheeses are pretty simply cheese that are not soft and not hard. There’s a bit of flex in this category, as some cheeses will be softer when young, but can become hard grating cheeses when aged for a longer period. Typically, this category will include Pomerol, Tomme de Savoie or young Gouda such as Veenweidekaas.
- Hard cheeses are those that have been cooked and/or pressed and aged to remove more of their moisture so that the texture will be hard and the flavors will become more concentrated. Cheeses in this category include Pecorino Gran Riserva, Parmigiano Reggiano and aged Manchego.
- Blue cheeses are cheeses that have been made in a way that encourages the growth of molds in the interior of a cheese. Blue cheeses are made by inoculating the milk with a specific mold culture such as Penicillium Roqueforti and by treating the curds gently enough to preserve moisture and a loosely knit texture. Because the added culture is an aerobic mold, it must have oxygen to bloom. In order to get the blue veining in the cheese, makers pierce the cheese with a set of needles which, when removed, create pathways for the oxygen to penetrate to the interior and begin the blueing. Cheeses in this category include Fourme d’Ambert, Gorgonzola, and Bayley Hazen Blue.
- Blended / flavored cheeses are those cheeses that have had a flavor mixed into the curd. Cumin, fennel chili peppers are just some of the ingredients we’ve seen. One example of such a cheese is Robiola d’Alba al Tartufo