Cheddar ranges from young and mild to sharp and mature; they are dryish slightly crumbly and quite firm. They and their English relatives such as Gloucester, Cheshire and Wensleydale, may be flavored with sage or chives, or layered with Stilton for a striped cheese called Huntsman. Mimolette is a French cheddar-like cheese orange in color and very firm in texture. Dutch Edam and Gouda are pale colored cheeses with an almost springy consistency: superb for sandwiches omelets or anything that needs a sparky-flavored melted cheese topping. Leyden is similar, but seasoned with caraway, cloves and cumin; it is best nibbled, accompanied perhaps by a plate of sliced apples. Fontina ranges from springy and moist to firm and pungent. While the original Italy's Fontina Val d'Aosta, is an interesting flavorful cheese the fontinas from Scandinavia are usually bland.
Swiss cheese encompasses the whole segment of firm cheeses with holes, which are created by a gas that forms as the cheese ripens. Appenzeller, Emmentaler, and Gruyere are among the traditional cheeses of Switzerland as is raclette ( around which a whole meal, appropriately called raclette, is based). There are also good French versions, Beafort and Comte, the Greek Graviera, and Norwegian Jarlsberg. The nutty flavor and tender though springy texture of these cheeses is very appealing for eating as is. They grate easily and melt evenly making them the universal grating cheeses (along with Parmesan-type cheeses for much of Europe. Some European versions of Swiss types, as well as many American Swiss cheeses are very bland with textures that can veer toward rubbery.
Jack - Somoma or Monterey- is California's native hybrid. It is moist, tender and melts extremely well. Its mild flavor snakes it a good all-purpose choice for cooking, or to mix with other cheeses that are more highly flavored. Jacks may be seasoned with garlic. onion, pesto or chiles and vary widely in flavor.
Creamy, with a distinctive whiff of the barnyard, goat cheeses have become so popular in the San Francisco Bay Area in recent years that they nearly define California cuisine. Goat cheeses in French, chevre usually come from France or California. although a handful are made in other countries and states. Bucheron and Montrachet are the most common French cheeses. Available in shapes that range from logs to pyramids to buttons, discs and little balls, each goat cheese has a slightly different flavor and texture depending on how long it has aged and how it is prepared. Many are flavored with herbs, peppercorns or vegetable ash (yes, it is edible). While fresh goat cheeses are the most common. Goat cheese can be aged into a strongly flavored grating cheese. Some cheeses, such as the chestnut leaf-wrapped banon and the flat disc called St. Marcellin, are made with milk from both cows and goats.
SHEEP'S MILK CHEESES
Feta and feta-type cheeses are eaten throughout the Middle East and the Balkans. Although they also may be made from cow's and goat's milk, it is sheep's milk that makes the freshest-tasting, light and lyrical fete. Sheep's milk cheeses abound in Europe, including a wide range of light, tangy, fresh cheeses. One of the loveliest-and occasionally exported-is Brin d'Amour, which is coated with rosemary and other French hillside herbs. Pecorino, named after the Italian word for sheep, pecora, is usually a well-aged cheese that is excellent for grating. It is also sold fresh, when it is much like feta, tender and moist. Few sheep's milk cheeses are made in the United States, but Petaluma's Bellwether Farms makes a wide range of them. Manchego is an aged Sheep's milk cheese from spain, excellent for grating.
Made with milk from sheep, goats and/or cows, blue cheese is tangy, salty and pungent, with a consistency that ranges from firm
(Danish or Maytag blue) to creamy (Gorgonzola). There are also hybrids of blue cheese made in the form of a Camembert-type of cheese. When choosing blue cheeses, avoid darkened, brownish-gray coloration, any oozing moisture and an ammonia smell. Some blues are actually white, such as white Stilton, yet they have the characteristic "blue" flavor. From the bracingly saline Roquefort to Spain s leaf-wrapped Cabrales (at times strong enough to bring tears to the eyes). blue cheeses may be eaten in a variety of ways: on their own, in salads, in soups and in sauces. When cooking with blue cheeses, however, keep in mind that they lose their distinctive flavor when cooked, and quickly melt into a puddle when heated. To maximize flavor, use in salad dressings or as an omelet filling: toss quickly into creamy pasta garnished with toasted pine nuts, or make a last minute sauce for rare beef.
The technique for making these cheeses grew out of medieval monasteries. and they're sometimes called monastery cheeses." Semisoft cheeses should stick a little to the knife as you cut them; they range in flavor from the aromatic to the well, very aromatic. Bal Paese, St Paulin, Muenster, Pont l'Eveque, Port-Salut, Reblochon, and Tomme de Savoie are all fragrant examples The Italian stracchino is decisively more pungent, but nothing compares to France's Livarot and Maroilles.
Parmesan is no doubt the best known grating cheese in the world. but the best-some would say the only is Parmigiano-Reggiano, the nutty, salty and fabulously flavorful cheese made in that small region of Italy, although a reasonable tasting, reasonably priced Parmesan is made in Argentina). There are numerous other grating cheeses, and many are far better than impostor Parmesans that come close to the original but never quite close enough. Asiago, dried Pecorino, dry Jack, Manchego and Kasseri are all good for grating. To savor good Parmesan, however, slice it and eat it straight, to end a meal, with a ripe and luscious pear or a handful of seedless grapes.
BRIE AND CAMEMBERT TYPE CHEESES
Soft-ripened cheeses, with a "bloomy" rind-that is, powdery and soft-and an unctuous, runny interior can be among the glories of the chessboard. Delice de France, Revidoux, and Coulommiers are three of the other names you might find at the cheese counter. Explorateur and St Andre have a similar bloomy rind that they're richer, almost butter like in consistency, with a tender-firm, not runny interior. Brie can be flavored with herbs or bedecked with nuts, glazes and the like. Brie's aromatic flavor and slightly oozing consistency can be very seductive.
Cottage, queso fresco, cream cheese, Boursin and boursault, mascarpone, ricotta and fromoge frais are the he most commonly found fresh cheeses, each with its own taste and texture. Fresh cheese is eaten in various ways-combined with pasta, as a filling for dumplings or pastries, stirred into polenta, flavored with herbs and spread on bread, sweetened and eaten as dessert. A favorite Corsican dessert is fresh goat cheese or a sheep's milk cheese) served with orange flower water and sugar. String cheeses are fresh cheeses made by stretching the curd. Fresh mozzarella and Armenian stringy cheese are tasty on their own and fun to peel off in threads. Fresh mozzarella and its tiny cousin, bocconcini, are delicious sprinkled with a little salt, black pepper and olive oil-but only just before eating. When these cheeses are a bit more mature, marinate them with garlic, red pepper flakes, a dab of vinegar and a generous lacing of fragrant herbs such as oregano, rosemary or herbs de Provence.