Cheddar Cheese

September 25, 2012 12:10:20 PM EDT

Cheddar is the most popular cheese in the United Kingdom, accounting for 51% of cheese sales, and is the second most popular cheese in the United States. It can be paired with a good bottle of wine, or melted between two rustic pieces of bread for a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.


Though today it is made worldwide, cheddar cheese originated in England, taking its name from the caves in Cheddar, in the county of Somerset. The constant temperature and humidity of the caves provided a perfect environment for the cheese to mature. The caves also give the cheeses a slightly earthy taste.


The town of Cheddar also developed a unique process for cheese making, where the slabs of curd were turned and piled on top of each other to help dray the whey and stretch the curd. This process is unique to cheddar cheese and creates a hard cheese with a firm body.


There are many varieties of cheddar, sold from supermarkets to gourmet stores. They range from a mild, nondescript flavor, to a very deep, nutty flavor. But true English Farmhouse Cheddar holds the status of Protected Designation of Origination, meeting strict standards of production, including where the milk comes from and where the cheese is made and aged.


Unlike the typical orange shrink-wrapped blocks we think of as cheddar in America, English Farmhouse Cheddar has a robust taste with a salty flavor and a faint sulphuric note. It is aged a minimum of 9 months, creating a strong, mature flavor. The cheese is bound by cloth and becomes harder and drier as it ages.


Cheddar cheese is naturally off white or pale yellow in color, but annatto and other colorings are sometimes added to give it a deep orange color. It was traditionally sold in cloth that had been soaked in lard to prevent contaminants while allowing the cheese to breathe. It was later sold packaged in black wax and can still be found in this packaging as well as shrink wrapped in plastic.


Want to know more?  Shop for cheddar cheese.

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The Other Greek Cheeses

September 24, 2012 11:45:40 AM EDT

Though feta is the most well known Greek cheese, it is by no means the only one.  As we mentioned in our previous article, cheese is an important part of Greek life and cuisine, so it is no surprise that there are many varieties, each with their own taste and characteristics. 


Cheese making is a matter of regional pride and many of the cheeses listed below bear the name of the town or region where they are made.  This is just a brief overview of some of the characteristics of some of the Greek cheeses.  But don’t take our word for it; buy some Greek cheese to try out for yourself!


Anthrotiros is made from whey from sheep and goat milk.  It has been made in Greece for many centuries.  Fresh Anthotiros is soft and mild, suitable as a table cheese or in cheese pastries.  Dried Anthotiros is hard and salty with a rich flavor and is often used grated.


Formaella of Parnassos originates in the Arachova region at the foot of the Parnassos mountain in southwestern Greece.  It is hard with a pleasantly sharp taste.  It ripens for at least 3 months, giving it a rich flavor.


Galotiri is one of the oldest Greek cheeses.  It has a soft texture that is very spreadable and a tart yet refreshing taste.


Graviera cheeses are generally labeled with the name of the area or island where they are made.  They are typically hard with flavors that range from sweet to salty.  They are ripened for 3 to 6 months, depending on the variety.  It melts well and is often used in casseroles and risottos but is also a good table cheese and pairs well with cold cuts.


Halloumi is considered to be one of the classic Greek cheeses.  It can be heated without losing its shape and is often used for grilling.  It has been nicknamed the “squeaky cheese” because of the sound it makes when chewed.


Kalathaki of Limnos has a soft texture and a slightly sour and salty taste, similar to Feta.  It can be used as a table cheese, on salads, in pastries, and as “saganaki” (shallow fried cheese).


Kasseri is one of the few yellow Greek cheeses.  It is semi-hard and can be used for pizza or as a table cheese.  It is similar to provolone but has a milder, more buttery flavor.  It is produced from cooking fresh kefalotiri.


Kefalotiri is considered the ancestor of many hard Greek cheeses.  It has a rich aroma and a salty taste. It is used as a table cheese, grated on pastas, in cheese pastries, and as saganaki.


Kopanisti is made exclusively in the Cyclades islands off the south coast of Greece.  It is intensely salty and has a soft texture and rich flavor, making it perfect in cheese pastries as a snack with wine.


The name of Ladotiri cheese comes from the words “ladi,” meaning “olive oil” and “tiri,” meaning cheese.  The name comes from the manufacturing process since it is preserved in olive oil.  It is also called “Kefalaki” (small head) thanks to its distinctive shape.  It is made exclusively on Mitilini Island where it is ripened for at least 3 months to give it a strong flavor with a slightly salty taste.  It has a hard texture and is mainly used as a table cheese.


Manouri is a soft cheese made in Central and Western Macedonia and in Thessalia.  It is made from whey and has a unique taste and sweet flavor.  It has a similar texture to ricotta and is often used in pastries and desserts, though it also makes a great addition to salads, sandwiches, and appetizers.


Metsovone is a hard smoked cheese from the Metsovo region.  It is one of the few Greek cheese made from cow’s milk and is considered an excellent quality table cheese. 


Mizithra has been made in Greece for thousands of years and is considered the ancestor of all Greek whey cheeses.  It can be made from any combination of milks.  Fresh mizithra is similar to ricotta and must be eaten shortly after it’s made so it doesn’t spoil.  Dried mizithra is salted and aged until hard, making it idea for cooking and as a grated topping.  There are special pies and sweet tarts in Crete that are made specifically with mizithra cheese.

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An Introduction To Greek Cheeses

September 21, 2012 11:25:01 AM EDT

According to their mythology, the ancient Greeks were given the gift of cheese-making from Aristaios, the son of the gods Apollo and Cyrene.  From its divine beginnings, cheese has continued to be a cherished part of Greek cuisine.  Greeks eat more cheese per capita than any other European nation, averaging almost 59 pounds of cheese per year per person. 


Greek cheese can be served alone, as an appetizer, fried, raw, fresh with fruit and honey, and as part of a myriad of dishes.  Most Greek cheeses are made from sheep or goat milk, and are consequently whiter in color than cheeses from cow’s milk. 


Cheese is often an integral part of a meze, a unique Greek tradition of food served with drinks that provides the backdrop for many boisterous Greek social gatherings.


Another dish that features cheese is saganaki, an appetizer of pan-seared cheese.  The dish is named for the small frying pan in which it is made.  Saganaki is made by moistening a slice of cheese with water and dredging in flour then frying with olive oil and squeezing lemon on top.  It is generally made with kefalograviera, kasseri, kefalotyir, or feta.


Feta is by far the most famous Greek cheese and is one of the most popular cheeses worldwide.  It is made from sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep and goat milk.  It is ripened and kept in brine for at least 2 months to give it the distinctive salty and slightly acidic taste and a unique crumbly texture.  It is manufactured in the mountainous and semi-mountainous regions of Greece.


Feta can vary in texture from semi-soft to semi-hard and in flavor from mild to sharp.  In addition to being the classic topping for a Greek salad, it can also be used in baked goods, casseroles, appetizers, and as a table cheese. 


Feta is a protected food in the European Union.  It must contain at least 70% sheep’s milk and must be made in certain regions of Greece.  However, American cheese companies are not required to abide by these regulations and feta made outside of Greece may be different than true feta.


Ready to try it out for yourself?  Shop our selection of authentic and delicious feta cheese.

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Italian Hard Cheeses

September 18, 2012 11:04:00 AM EDT

Italian hard cheeses have a rich intense taste.  They have less moisture and a longer shelf life than softer varieties.  As cheese ages, it becomes firmer and more pungent, so hard cheeses tend to have a very strong taste.  Hard cheeses are often crumbly and are commonly used grated on top of pasta dishes.


Parmigiano Reggiano is a granular cheese produced in the central Italian regions of Parma and Reggio Emilia.  Its French name, parmesan, is more frequently used by English speakers to refer to this cheese, though the bland parmesan cheeses sold in cans in America has little resemblance to true Italian Parmigiano Reggiano.  Parmigiano Reggiano is pungent and salty.  It adds a dynamic flavor when grated on top of salads, pastas, and pizzas.  The best varieties are aged for 2 years for optimal texture and flavor.


Grana Padano derives its name from the Italian words “grana” (grain) and “Padano” (referring to the Po River), referring to its distinctive grainy texture and the region where it originated.  It is slowly cooked and ripened for up to 18 months, giving it a delicate, nutty flavor.  Many athletes believe that eating Grana Padano is a quick way to restore energy levels after strenuous exercising; since it has been ripened over a long period, the body can quickly use its energy.


Pecorino cheeses are made from sheep’s milk.  Most of the cheeses in this family are aged and sharp.  The four main varieties are regulated under the Protected Designation of Origin status.  Pecorino Romano is the best known outside of Italy and is often used on pasta dishes where its distinctive, strong, salty flavor complements highly-flavored sauces.


Asiago comes from the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.  It develops a strong flavor as it ages and is often used grated or in sauces.  It is similar to Parmigiano and Pecorino Romano, but has a sweeter taste.

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Italian Semi-Soft and Semi-Hard Cheeses

September 14, 2012 10:48:00 AM EDT

Italian semi-soft and semi-hard cheeses have a stronger flavor and firmer texture than the soft cheeses but are not as dry and crumbly as hard cheeses.


Semi-soft cheeses have more moisture than harder cheeses, but a longer shelf life than the soft cheeses.  They are good for snacking and desserts and some can be used in cooking.


Semi-hard cheeses are pressed to remove moisture and when fresh are generally not hard and crumbly but they do become firmer, more pungent, and crumbly as they age. They are often paired with fruit and wine or served on cheese trays with crackers.  They can be cooked without becoming rubbery or oily and have a longer shelf life than softer cheeses.


Asiago Fresco or Asiago Pressato is a semi-soft cheese that originated in the village of Asiago.  It is much softer than the hard Asiago Vecchio because it is generally aged for only 30-40 days.  It is sweet and buttery with a slightly salty aftertaste that pairs well with salami and crusty bread.


Provolone is mozzarella that has been aged and often smoked, making it dryer than fresh mozzarella.  It can be aged for as few as one or two months or up to one year.  It has a firm and slightly elastic texture and is excellent on sandwiches. 


Bel Paese is a mild creamy cheese made from cow’s milk that has a buttery flavor.  The name means “beautiful country,” referring to the beautiful countryside of Lombardy (near Milan) where it originated.  It is popular paired with fruity wines or as a snack or dessert.  It melts easily and can be used as a substitute for mozzarella in pizzas, casseroles, and other dishes.


One of the oldest cheeses in Italy is Fontina Val d’Aosta, which has been made in the Aosta Valley in the high Alps of northwestern Italy since the 1100s. It is also one of the most famous Italian cheeses and many cheese connoisseurs rank it among the top cheeses in the world.  It has a fleshy color and a buttery, nutty taste. It melts well and is often used as a dessert cheese and in fondue. 


Fontina Fontal is a semi-soft cheese that is milder than Fontina Val d’Aosta.  It is made with pasteurized cow’s milk and has a nutty sweet flavor.  When melted it forms a dense layer of gooeyness, making it a great substitute for mozzarella or provolone in cooked recipes.

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