Know Your Cheese Article -
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Know Your Cheese

Fresh cheese? Hard cheese? Here's a quick look at what's in a name.

Cheese is hard to classify. Within each category, individual cheeses made from different types of milk will taste wildly different, but you'll always know your way around cheese with this handy guide. Consider these broad categories as guidelines rather than rules:

Fresh Cheese

Fresh cheese is not aged before eating. These cheeses are soft and generally mild, sometimes slightly tart, and taste like the milk they are made from. Since they are young, they have no rind and often don't even hold their shape. Examples are fresh chèvre, Mexican queso fresco, cottage cheese, farmer's cheese, mascarpone, paneer, manouri, quark, and ricotta. Some types are sold both fresh and aged: pizza mozzarella is the aged version of fresh mozzarella balls.

    Soft-Ripened Cheese

    These cheeses have a characteristic "bloomy" crust, created when bacteria ripen the cheese from the inside out. They are usually disc-shaped to provide lots of surface area for the bacteria to develop. As they ripen, a delicious soft- to near-liquid layer forms below the rind. Cheeses range from mild and buttery to strong. Usually eaten at three to eight weeks old, examples include Brie and Camembert.

      Semi-Soft to Semi-Hard Cheese

      A great range of cheeses fall into this category. These might be young versions of cheeses that age well--like Cheddars--or creamy monastery-style cheeses. Washed-rind cheeses--or cheeses that have been washed with brandy, wine, or a brine during ripening--also fall in this category and can be semi-soft like Italian taleggio, to fairly firm, like Spanish Mahon.

        Semi-hard to Hard Cheese

        These are older, drier, and often saltier, with bolder flavors. Often tiny, salty protein crystals develop in them as they age, giving a distinctive texture. Aged Cheddar, Gruyere, Dry Jack, and Parmigiano Reggiano, fall into this category.

          Blue-veined Cheese

          Deeply pierced for air circulation and exposed to certain penicillium bacteria, blue-veined cheeses vary widely in tartness, intensity, and creaminess. Colorful with blue to greenish veining and delicious, Spanish sheep's milk Blue de Basque, French Roquefort, and Australia's Roaring Forties Blue are great examples.

            lara s.j 
            Jul. 18, 2009 5:07 am
            i'm glad you did the different types of cheese you do all that for everone to know what to look for when it comes to using them this will go in my recipe box THANK YOU
            Penny H2 
            Aug. 6, 2009 5:22 pm
            I would love to know if it is possible to substitute another cheese-Less expensive- than Gruyere cheese.Thank You
            Aug. 8, 2009 2:43 pm
            wow this is really good information I really did not know the diffrent types of cheeses !!
            Oct. 22, 2009 6:05 pm
            I'm on a yeast diet so I'm not allowed to eat aged cheese. I wander if fresh or mexican cheeses will be ok with this diet?
            Oct. 28, 2009 3:22 am
            There wasn`t a thing on Mexican cheese!
            April Hilton 
            Nov. 25, 2009 7:30 am
            Since the tastier cheeses are aged, Is there a big concerned to expiration dates. I have kept in refrig a long time than cut away any molds that look bad. My grocery store has thrown away a lot expensvive cheeses and won't sell to me at discount. makes me sad. It is so expensive and then waisted....
            Dec. 2, 2009 11:46 pm
            Great info! Thanks!
            Dec. 5, 2009 4:34 pm
            made farmers cheese but too much salt in - can it be saved
            Dec. 9, 2009 9:25 am
            When baking brie in a puff pastry, do you remove the rind? Is it suppose to be eaten?
            Dec. 10, 2009 4:23 pm
            I was recently told I was allergic to cows milk. I easily found substitures for some cheese. It would be nice to find info on specific flavors for substitutions. For example I love the bufflo mozzerella but had to just buy it. Some of this would be a huge waste of money if it was nasty.
            Dec. 23, 2009 5:41 pm
            irishfancy, no you don't remove the rind when you bake Brie. :)
            Feb. 22, 2010 4:56 pm
            swiss cheese can be substituted for gruyere
            Mar. 16, 2010 11:16 am
            I put Medium cheddar in my salads. Everyone loves it....
            Mar. 16, 2010 11:18 am
            I forgot to tell you that I cube it.
            Apr. 15, 2010 4:57 am
            Do not cut mould off cheese & presume its OK to eat. A friend of mine who is a microbiologist says it is an extremely dangerous thing to do as the remaining cheese can cause irreparable kidney damage & in some cases death.
            Apr. 15, 2010 12:17 pm
            Emmenthal cheese substitutes well for gruyere but tends to be tangier and less fruity. I used to work in a cheese shop. For hard, and most semi-hard cheeses, as long as it doesn't smell too funky and has no visible mould, its good to go. Even if it has visible mould, usually if you cut off the mould and an extra quarter inch where-ever the mould was the remaining cheese should still be safe to eat. The problem is some moulds secrete toxins into the cheese, which is what can make you sick which is why you should remove more cheese than just where you can see mould growing. Most grocery stores do not sell products past their "best before" (ie, expiry) dates because it would open themselves up to a lawsuit - even though most of the time cheese past the best before date is alright, if someone were to get sick and it were to be attributed to the cheese, the grocery store could be held responsible. I used to work in a deli and we weren't even allowed to snack hot items (chicken w
            May 5, 2010 1:39 pm
            @ Sassycamz: I recommend Feta cheese for salads, goes great with a viniagerette dressing :)
            Jun. 11, 2010 5:51 pm
            This is great information. Of Course I knew there was a difference in cheese BUT I couldn't begin to tell someone until now! THANKS!
            Jun. 17, 2010 11:45 am
            thanxs opendestiny I suffer with C albicans and your info is very helpful!
            Aug. 20, 2010 11:24 am
            why does the mascarpone have a granulated texture when I make tiramisu?
            Sep. 20, 2010 3:01 am
            brie and camembert ripen by a fungus, not a bacterium. And from the outside in , not from the inside out.
            Sep. 20, 2010 3:03 am
            hard cheese: salt crystals, not salty protein crystals. Blue-veined: again fungi, not bacteria. One wonders that you dare write about cheese - almost every 'fact' you give is wrong.
            Oct. 4, 2010 3:45 am
            very useful info. i love cheese.. helps me understand more what to try/ buy...
            Dec. 6, 2010 6:35 pm
            Evanherk- You stated that blue veined cheese has fungi - wrong. I have never encountered a mushroom in my blue cheese. Check your facts, sir.
            Dec. 23, 2010 1:21 pm
            Cammy, sweetie, if you will check I think you will find that the organism responsible for the "veins" is a specific Pennicillium fungi. Not every fungi is a mushroom.
            Jan. 14, 2011 12:25 pm
            Yep, "blue" cheeses are made with Penicillium Roquefortii, and the blue color is due to the fungal spores/reproductive structures; brie-type cheeses are made with Penicillium Camembertii, and the mycelium of the fungus creates the outer rind. I thought that was crazy when I learned such in a fungus biology course. Sorry, Cammy K... there is more to fungi than shrooms alone!
            Jan. 23, 2011 2:21 pm
            Can someone please tell me what DRY cottage cheese is? In the article about ingredient substitutions, dry cottage cheese can be substituted for ricotta. I have never heard of it.
            Feb. 8, 2011 2:29 pm
            @cookingal02: look for michigan cottage cheese. It doesn't have as much liquid to it...
            Feb. 19, 2011 2:10 am
            swiss cheese is my favorite , its very tasty , i prefer swiss on my lazania instead of muzerella
            Mar. 2, 2011 12:17 pm
            @ Penny H2- you can sub swiss cheese for gruyere, they have a lot of mild tasting swiss in the deli.
            Mar. 28, 2011 7:37 am
            I love cheese, this is good info to start with as a launching pad and further research will help me round out. I love experimenting with different cheeses in salads, melts, pastas, etc. I can't wait to bake a brie. so much confusion between molds, fungi and bacteria, I too took different micro class' and get confused when it comes to different cheese. Who knew such an innocent, seemingly innocuous(or innocculated,lol)substance like cheese could start such heated debate. Great Cheese Wars?? I wonder.
            May 20, 2011 3:34 am
            Thanks to all the lovely friends who shared thoughts! I'll probably have to take some kind of culinary science classes just to satisfy my stupendous curiosity now...sounds like a rockin good time!! =D
            Jun. 1, 2011 8:31 pm
            does anyone know what kind of cheese is used in mexican style restaraunt meals with rice
            Jun. 14, 2011 8:33 pm
            goat cheese is the bomb.
            Jul. 31, 2011 9:30 pm
            anyone have a cheddar cheese recipe?
            Feb. 17, 2012 3:56 am
            Hi I am living in Zambia and often see recipes for American Cheese, what is a good alternative, Gouda, Cheddar, Mozzarella?? Thanks, Huxess
            Apr. 18, 2012 7:32 pm
            There is so much information on cheese. I would so like to learn all about it. I only know the basics. This info is a great reference. Thank you!
            Apr. 25, 2012 7:32 am
            I want to learn more about the types of Mexican cheeses. The grocery stores carry them but can never tell me how to use them..
            Jun. 8, 2012 7:37 am
            here is a good site to try out:

if AR will allow it. I found on Gourmet Sleuth (.com) :)
            Jul. 18, 2012 3:12 pm
            I wish to learn about the various marinades for mozzarella balls. Thanks in advance.
            Oct. 13, 2012 7:06 am
            Huxess, I have been all over this country, and done some over seas travel as well. I have never seen anything "Like" American cheese. I have a friend in Austrailia who says there is a similar cheese there, but I forget what it is called. That being said, if you live in a place where there is no American Cheese for sale, I would use Mild yellow, (orange), chedder cheese in it's place. It's NOT the same thing, but it is as close as you can get without mixing a bunch of different cheeses. On a different note, I love to play with the cheese choices in a recipe, just because it calls for one type of cheese, that does not mean you can't use another type. It's cooking, HAVE FUN WITH IT!
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