We will keep the introduction to this article about the different kinds of cheeses and wine pairings short because we are assuming you would have got all the basic information from the previous article.
This article will give you all the rudimentary facts about soft and hard cheeses and the kinds of foods and wines that best complement them. If wine making is a work of passion, we can definitely call cheese making a work of passion too. The only difference is that wine deals with different kinds of grapes and cheese deals with different kinds of milk produced from various animals which are fed different diets to get different cheeses!
Bring these two heady cheesy passionate personalities together and your food and your wine gets elevated to sheer bliss and heavenJ!
Read on folks and don’t forget to give us your best cheesy cheerful smile
Basic information about the different kinds of cheeses
- Are quite obviously labelled as soft because they have a soft crumbly creamy texture.
- Various countries like Greece, Italy and France make a wide variety of soft cheeses.
- Usually the milk is procured from goats, sheep, cows, water buffaloes etc.
- The taste, texture, flavour, aroma will all depend on the kind of diet that was fed to these milk producing animals.
- While some of these soft cheeses are allowed to age for as long as three months, most of them are usually eaten fresh. The time span will vary depending on the process the cheese maker follows.
- Cheeses made out of goat’s milk tend to have a distinct, earthy flavour. As the cheese matures with age, it gains a robust and tangy aroma.
- Goat cheeses are usually low in fat content and rich in potassium and Vitamin A. People who are lactose intolerant appreciate cheeses made out of goat’s milk.
- The moisture content is the deciding factor for the texture of these cheeses. They may be soft, semi soft, firm or hard depending on how moist they are and the manner in which they have been processed and aged.
Some classic soft cheeses are: Feta, Chevre, Mozarella, Ricotta, Burrata etc.
- Is made out of sheep and goat milk only. Feta cheese makers have to adhere to all the norms of cheese making of their home country, Greece.
- It is mandatory for all feta cheese makers to use a combination of 70% of sheep’s milk and 30% of goat’s milk. No other permutations and combinations can be used as per the rules of the government of this country.
- Feta cheese is usually allowed to age for around 3 months.
- Feta cheese has a salty flavour because the fresh curdled milk is allowed to soak in a salt water bath for some time.
- Feta cheese has a tangy flavour and is moist to touch. It has a delicate crumbly, creamy texture.
Food pairing recommendations: Feta cheeses perfectly complement fresh summer fruits. Simply crumble it into your salads or over the sandwiches that we eat regularly for that extra zing. Broil some feta cheese with a little extra virgin olive oil for a mini snack between meals or use it instead of Cotija ( a Mexican made cheese similar to a young feta that uses cow’s milk) while cooking Mexican food.
- The word Chevre literally means ‘goat’ in French. So all these white soft or firm cheeses made out of pasteurized or unpasteurized goat’s milk in France are called Chevre.
- Bucheron, Chabis, Crottin de Chavignol are some typical examples of Chevre cheeses.
Food pairing recommendations: Chevre cheeses are ideally served as the perfect dessert cheeses. They may also be served as starters or as snacks before or after dinner, crumbled into salads or used in sandwiches. They can also be fried or added to macaroni.
- Unlike Feta and Chevre, this Italian soft cheese is made from the milk of cows or water buffaloes.
- Mozarella is eaten fresh after the curdled milk is strained out of the whey water. They are allowed to boil in water and then they are hand processed till all the whey water drains out. They are then rolled into moist balls and sold fresh.
- Some cheese makers allow it to rest in brine water to infuse some flavour.
Food pairing recommendations: Imagine a pizza without mozzarella? Just add it to your sandwiches or eat it with a drizzle of olive oil, coarse salt and pepper.
Classic soft cheeses and wine pairings:
- Feta with Beaujolais,
- Chevre with Chenin Blanc
- Mozarella with Sauvignon Blanc
- Burrata with Tocai Friulano
- Ricotta with Pinot Grigio
4. Hard Cheeses:
- As the name suggests, we will need to grate, shred or shave hard cheeses when we want to use them in our cooking.
- Again, hard cheeses are produced by different countries and each country adheres to its own traditions, rules and regulations to make these cheeses.
- The milk can be obtained from various animals like ewes, sheep and cows.
- These light yellow cheeses are hard and dry with a creamy, crumbly, crunchy, firm and open, grainy texture.
- Hard cheeses usually have a mild, buttery, savoury, nutty flavour.
- They are extremely rich in calcium and low in fat which makes it a healthy cheese to indulge in.
- Hard cheeses are allowed to mature and age from as little as four weeks to as much as three years.
Some classic examples of hard cheeses are: Gouda, Parmesan, Pecorino, Cheddar, Gruyere, Fontina, Double Gloucester etc.
- Is a semi hard or hard cheese made out of cow’s milk in Holland.
- The quality and the flavour will change gradually as it ages but the complete contrast in flavour and texture is obvious even to someone who tastes it for the first time!
- A young Gouda cheese will have a mild, creamy waxy flavour whereas a mature version will be hard, crumbly but delightfully flavourful.
- Long aged Gouda cheese will develop crystals of calcium lactate using the latent moisture within the cheese. This gives the cheese a lovely crunchy texture akin to robust parmesan.
Food pairing recommendations: Young Gouda melts if we want to add it to our dishes while cooking. A mature Gouda is wonderful to taste just as it is but could be grated into salads or sprinkled over casseroles too.
Parmesan also known as Zanetti Parmigiano Reggiano:
- Italy is reputed for this superb straw coloured cheese which is produced only in select areas of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua.
- These Italian cheese makers still follow an 800 year old tradition of feeding the cows a special diet and not adding any additives at all during the processing of the unpasteurized milk.
- Parmigiano Reggiano takes anywhere between 18 months to 3 years to mature and is freely available in both these stages to cater to the different preferences of cheese lovers.
- This rich in calcium and low in fat cheese is very healthy. It is an all time favourite of all world class chefs because it lends a unique touch to any dish that is cooked.
- Parmesan is renowned and popular all around the world because it has a distinct aroma and lovely nutty flavour. As it matures, it becomes harder and calcium crystals are formed using the moisture within the cheese. This kind of mature parmesan cheese will have a crunchy texture.
- Parmigiano Reggiano is easy to identify due to the sheer size – it is around 75 pounds by weight and carries the trademark stamp of Zanetti on it.
Food pairing recommendations: Parmesan is usually grated into salads and pastas, rice or soup and can also be eaten with fruits and crackers. The hard briny rinds lend a touch of richness and flavour to several Italian soups.
- Any cheese that is made out of sheep’s or ewe’s milk in central Italy and the island of Sardinia will be called a Pecorino cheese.
- Pecorino Romano from Sardinia, Tuscan province of Grosseto and Lazio, Pecorino Siciliano from Sicily, Pecorino Sardo from Sardinia and Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany are famous outside Italy.
- The age of the cheese will determine the flavour of Pecorino. Fresco or fresh Pecorinos and young or semi stagionato Pecorino will typically have a mild soft creamy flavour.
- Aged Pecorinos are known as stagionato and have a hard and crumbly texture with a buttery and nutty flavour.
- Quality Pecorinos are identified by their pale straw coloured or dark brown coloured smooth hard rind. The cheese itself is white or pale yellow in colour with irregular tiny eyes.
- Again, various flavours like black pepper corns or red chilli flakes are infused by the cheese makers and almost every Italian will opt for this cheese.
- A pocket friendly cheese, Pecorino is an excellent option to consider instead of the expensive Parmigiano Reggiano.
Food pairing recommendations: Pizza, pasta, soups, salads etc.
- Cheddar, a cheese made in Somerset, England, is the name given to the process in which this cheese is made.
- The milk curd is cooked and then milled into rice sized pieces. They are then assembled together and stacked up in piles to remove the excess moisture.
- Cheddar is traditionally a dry crumbly textured cheese with a nutty, zesty and deep flavour.
- Depending on the diet of the cows and the season the colour of Cheddar will range from straw to ivory and the flavour too is bound to be completely different during the different stages of ageing.
Food pairing recommendations: Cheddar tastes yummy all on its own but can be used in grilled cheese casseroles and in sandwiches too.
Classic hard cheeses and wine pairings are:
- Gouda with Merlot
- Cheddar with Cabernet Sauvignon
- Parmesan with Chianti
- Pecorino with Valpolicella
- Double Gloucester with Zinfandel
- Gruyere with Sauvignon Blanc
- Fontina with Bardolino.
Equipped with such basic information about cheeses, learning about cheeses is also bound to be an exploratory journey. The more we taste, the more we experience, the more we are able to identify the distinct differences in tastes and flavour and we will be able to experiment various cheeses with various best wines opener. One fine day we will come across a stunning combination of wine, good food and cheese ……….and that promises to be a memorable evening indeed! Till then we strongly recommend that you continue to enjoy and love all your experiences with both wine and cheese!
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