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The Cheese Board

The Cheese Board

There's a delicious world beyond the familiar cheeses we eat over and over again. Experiment! Eat well!

By FamilyTime

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In any country where dairy farming is practiced, there is cheese. Hundreds of varieties with both subtle and striking taste differences are made around the world, but all follow the same basic process.

Cow, sheep, or goat milk, pasteurized or not, is treated with enzymes (usually rennet) so that it separates into curds and watery whey. The creamy curds are then made into cheese using various methods. Some are cooked, some are aged, and some are eaten almost immediately after processing.

Fresh Cheeses
These are mild, soft, and have relatively brief shelf lives. The curds are not cooked nor permitted to age before they are formed into fresh cheese. Use these in sandwiches, salads, as spreads, and, in some cases, in baking.

Cottage cheese, cream cheese, farmers cheese, Feta, mascarpone, provolone, and ricotta are fresh cheeses. Young, soft goat cheese is a fresh cheese, too.

Soft-Ripened Cheeses
For these cheeses, the curds are allowed to age longer. They are soft cheeses that frequently are encased in an edible rind that may be powdery white or orange and which may taste stronger than the cheese.

Examples of these cheeses are Brie, Camembert, Limburger, and ricotta salata (a mild sheep's milk cheese). These are usually eaten as they come, and rarely used in cooking.

Semisoft Cheeses
These cheeses are cooked but not pressed. Their soft texture makes them ideal for slicing and melting.

These include Monterey Jack, Muenster, and Port-Salut.

Semifirm Cheeses
These are uncooked, pressed, and aged to produce dense cheeses that are delicious with bread and fruit. They also melt nicely in sandwiches and casseroles.

Semifirm cheeses include favorites such as Cheddar, Edam, Fontina, Gouda, and Swiss cheese.

Hard Cheeses
The curds are cooked, pressed, and aged for a long time to yield cheeses that have hard rinds and interiors perfect for grating. While these are used extensively to accent dishes, they also are quite good on cheese boards.

The best known hard cheeses are Parmesan and Pecorino Romano.

Blue-Veined Cheeses
Blue cheese is a great favorite with cheese lovers. These cheeses are inoculated with a special mold so that they develop a network of blue-green veins. These give the cheese strong, sharp flavor.

Good crumbled or sliced, these cheeses include Danish blue, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and Stilton. All are good on cheese boards, in salads and sandwiches, and have a special affinity for fruit.

Selecting and Storing Cheese
Buy cheese from a market or shop with high turnover. A good cheese department will offer samples of the cheese and you should not be shy about tasting. Avoid pre-packaged cheese, particularly those with individually wrapped slices or sold already grated in cardboard canisters.

Store cheese, well wrapped, in the refrigerator. Fresh, soft cheeses do not keep as long as older, dryer aged cheeses.


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