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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

Hard Cheeses

A variety of hard cheeses are produced throughout the world. Cheddars and Swiss-style cheeses are among the most well known.

Originating in England, Cheddar has become one of the most popular hard cheeses in the United States. The Pilgrims brought Cheddar formulas to the United States, and by 1790, it was produced in such quantities that it was exported back to England. Cheddar derives its name from the process used in its manufacture. The cheddaring process involves turning and stacking the slabs of young cheese to extract more whey and give the cheese its characteristic texture. The yellow color of some Cheddars is achieved through the addition of annatto seed paste and has nothing to do with the flavor.

Once the cheddaring process is complete, the cheeses are wrapped in cheesecloth that has been dipped in wax and allowed to ripen. Cheddars are categorized by age. Current Cheddar is aged for thirty days, mild for one to three months, medium for three to six months, sharp for six to nine months, and extra-sharp for nine months to five years.

Many cheeses that originated in the United States are produced using the cheddaring method. American cheese is said to have gotten its name after the American Revolution when the proud producers of Cheddar in the United States did not want their cheeses to be mistaken for anything that might have originated in England, and aptly labeled them “American cheese.”

Colby is another truly American cheese that was invented in the town of Colby, Wisconsin, in 1874. When Colby slabs are cut in half, they are popularly known as “longhorns.”

The family of cheeses generically referred to as Swiss are also hard cheeses. These cheeses are sometimes characterized by holes, called eyes, which range in size from tiny to the size of a quarter. Swiss cheeses are often mellow in flavor and have excellent melting properties. Some of the more well-known varieties of Swiss cheese include Gruyère and Emmentaler. Beaufort is a French cheese made in the French Alps since Roman times that is similar to Swiss Gruyère. It is known as the Prince of Gruyères or King of the Mountain and has AOC status as well. Jarlsberg is another famous cheese that is Swiss-style; it comes from Norway.

Hard Cheeses

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