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How to Classify Cheese

How to Classify Cheese

Some examples of hard cheeses, clockwise from top left: Emmentaler, aged provolalone, Gruyere, manchego, aged Gouda, aged Cheddar, aged pecarino antico mugella, ricotta salata.

Culinary Institute of America

Soft Fresh Cheeses

Soft fresh cheeses are those cheeses that are unripened and generally have a fresh, clean, creamy flavor. These cheeses are typically the most perishable and are sometimes held in brines. Examples of soft fresh cheeses are cottage cheese, pot cheese, queso blanco, and cream cheese.

Ricotta cheese, made from recooking whey, actually began in Italy as a by-product of the cheese-making industry. (The name literally means “recook.”) When whey is heated, the proteins fuse together and create a new curd that, when drained, becomes a snowy white ricotta high in moisture and naturally low in fat. It is commonly used in Italian cooking as a filling for pastas or as a base for cheesecakes. Today, some ricottas are made with added part-skim or whole milk for a richer flavor.

Mascarpone is a fresh cheese made by curdling heavy cream with citric acid. The process releases excess moisture and yields a rich, creamy cheese that is mildly acidic and adapts to both sweet and savory preparations. One of the most famous uses of mascarpone is in the dessert tiramisù, in which the rich cheese is layered with sponge cake or ladyfingers that have been dipped in espresso and Marsala wine. Savory mascarpone dishes such as dips and spreads may also include herbs and spices.

In the United States, fresh goat’s milk cheeses have become very popular of late and are being produced in many parts of the country. They can be found in a variety of shapes and may be coated in herbs or edible ash.

Soft Cheeses

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