There is no end to the way you can describe and categorize a cheese.  Maybe it’s gooey and mushroomy.  Or is it firm and nutty? Today we’ll talk about eight basic types of cheese and how you can identify them!

 

1. Fresh

Fresh cheeses are among the simplest to make.  As their name suggests, they have no aging period and are to be eaten immediately after production.  These cheeses are generally mild in flavour and do not have a rind.  Some examples include fromage frais, chèvre, cottage cheese, sour cream, and quark. 

 

2. Soft ripened

Also known as a bloomy rind cheese, these varieties ripen from the outside in.    Their rinds are a combination of mold and yeast, which start off white and fluffy and over time form a distinctive outer skin.  You can look forward to a gooey, soft centre in these cheeses.  Brie de Meaux, Humboldt Fog, and Camembert are all examples of soft ripened cheeses. 

 

3. Washed rind

Washed rind cheeses can be identified by their orange, pungent exterior.  During the aging process, these cheeses are washed or scrubbed with brine to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria.  Gruyère, Epoisses, and our own Pennymede and Dovenby are all washed rind cheeses.  Eat these cheeses quickly…they can get really funky over time!

 

4. Semi hard

As the name suggests, these cheeses are on the firmer side, but they aren’t super hard and crumbly.  They are generally fairly mild in flavour and are good for melting.  Our Gillandsbeck and Tadwick Cheddars fall into this category, as do many popular cheeses such as Edam and Compte. 

Rounds of Edam, at the Edam Cheese Festival

 

5. Hard

Hard cheeses are very rich and flavourful because of their lengthy aging times.   Some can be aged for three years or more!  The longer a cheese ages for the less lactose it contains, making these cheeses excellent for people who have a low tolerance.  Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino, and Grana Padana are all examples of hard cheeses. 

 

6. Blue veined

Love it or hate it, blue cheese is everywhere!  During the cheese making process, the mold Penicillium is introduced to encourage development of blue, green, or grey veins.  After the wheels of cheese are formed, the rounds are pierced with rods to allow oxygen to enter the cheese and allow the mold to spread.  Our Greengill and Abergavenny are blue veined cheeses, as are Roquefort and Stilton.

Blue veined cheese at Neal’s Yard Dairy

7. Pasta filata

In Italian, pasta filata means spun paste.  In the world of cheese it refers to varieties that have been kneaded and stretched during production resulting in stringy, stretchy cheeses great for melting.  Some cheeses are aged, such as Provolone, and others are eaten fresh, such as Mozzarella. 

 

8. Whey cheese

Whey is a protein rich by-product of cheese making which is high in lactose.  Rather than discard this liquid, some cheese makers opt to continue processing it to make whey cheese.  This involves heating the whey to a very high temperature and extracting all the remaining milk solids.  Some of these cheeses can be eaten fresh like Ricotta, and others are aged like Gjetost (my favourite!) and Ricotta Salata.