By Paul Partica
I hope by now you were able to read my last month’s column, which was Part I of The 12 Families of Cheese. Together, these two parts make up the basis of my Cheese 101 class, which I hold from time to time. You may find that you do not like a few of the families. I often have customers who dislike soft cheeses and prefer hard or semi-soft choices, for example, or they avoid washed rind cheeses because of their pungent aroma. When buying cheese, knowing these preferences makes it easier as it helps to limit your choices.
When entertaining, depending on the size of the group you are trying to serve, choosing four to six families is adequate. Remember, if you can describe the size of the cheese, its color, type of rind, texture, aroma and a little of the flavor characteristics, chances are very good that your cheese monger will be able to find your cheese – or maybe one you might like even better.
- Dutch (Gouda)
This has become not only one of the most popular cheese families, but the largest volume by weight of any cheese family sold. Most are over six months in age and lactose-free. Not only growing in popularity, they are also growing in the selection of milk offered. In the last twenty years, I have seen so many new goat and sheep milk versions make the scene. Goudas are medium-ripening cheeses that are most often waxed. They are usually consistent and keep well. You will notice only small changes month-to-month as they ripen.
Cow Goudas – Beemster Vlaskaas, Beemster Classic, Beemster XO, Dutch Edam, French Mimolette, Old Amsterdam, Prima Donna and Parrano
Goat Goudas – Dutch Polder Goat, Dutch Midnight Moon, Dutch Girl, Beemster Goat
Sheep Goudas – Dutch Ewephoria, Dutch Lamb Chopper
This family used to be so much more prevalent than it is today. Back in the sixties, Denmark renamed their version of Tilsit to Havarti so as not to compete with other countries’ Tilsits. Then they re-invented it by adding more butterfat (60%) and calling it Creamed Havarti. Cheesemakers took it one step further by removing the initial washed rind covering and packing it in cry-o-vac, thereby eliminating its natural rind. Original Danish Tilsit, a very common item yesteryear, is now almost impossible to find. That said, the new Tilsits measure up in flavor.
Tilsits are a medium-aged cheese, usually with small eye formations (holes). These cheeses are usually ready after a few months and hold up well. Most are on the mild side but get more pungent with a little aging.
Examples are German Tilsit, Swiss Tilsit, Danish Tilsit (most popular being creamed Havarti), Swedish Farmers, Austrian Grinzing, Italian Crucolo
- Blue –These are generally smaller cheeses, two to 15lbs. After the cheese is set, firm needle holes are made in the cheese where a blue mold is injected.
Examples are Stilton, Gorgonzola, Blue, Blue Castello, Cambozola Black, Shropshire Blue, Arethusa Blue, Point Reyes Blue and, of course, Roquefort.
- Port Salut – These are also a medium ripening cheese, but without eye formations.
Examples are French Port Salut, Tomme de Savoie, St. Marcellin, Morbier, Reblochon (no longer available in the United States) and Delice du Jura.
These are well-aged cheeses that often require years to mature. Hard cheeses are generally pressed and heavily salted, and it takes many months to begin to taste differences in the cheese. Even though these cheeses are made from cow, sheep and goat milk, they have enough similar properties to be placed together.
Examples are: Parmigiano Reggiano, Romano, Asiago, Pepato, Sardo, Grana Padana, Provolone, Džiugas, Pecorino Toscano
- Goat and Sheep
These I rank together because I find that most people are looking for the different tastes of the two milks. Cheeses from this family can be found as fresh cheese, soft-ripening, medium-aged and hard cheese.
Examples of fresh would be: most goat logs, Montrachet, Crottin, Valencey Pyramids and Cochran Farms Mohawk Mist
Examples of soft-ripening would be: Bucheron goat logs, Clochette Belles, Chevrot, Chabichou and Cochran Farms St. Johnsville
Examples of aged are: Romano, Tomme Crayeuse, Midnight Moon, Lamb Chopper, Gjetost, Feta, Kasseri, Beemster Goat, Abbay de Belloc, Ossau Iraty
When buying cheese, it is best to ignore the term “artisan” since so many new products made today are now labeled artisan or artisan-inspired and the term is overused. In my opinion, this compares to the gourmet label. Remember when gourmet meant something? Can everyone have the world’s best gourmet coffee?
I hope my method is of some help to you.