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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

Very Hard Cheeses

In Italy, these cheeses are known as the granas, or grainy cheeses, because of their granular texture. The most popular of these cheeses are Parmesan and Romano, which are now produced in the United States and South America but are different from their predecessors. Very hard cheeses are most often grated or shaved, but they are also traditionally eaten in chunks broken off with a special knife.

True Parmigiano-Reggiano is often referred to as the “king of cheeses.” It is believed that the formula for this cheese has not changed in more than seven hundred years, and its origins date back even further. This legendary cheese is made slowly and carefully following strict guidelines that require it to be aged a minimum of fourteen months, although most are aged for twenty-four months. Stravecchio, or extra aged, is ripened for as much as three years. The flavor of Parmigiano-Reggiano is complex and unique.

Romano cheeses—named for the city of Rome—come in several different varieties. Pecorino Romano, which is made with sheep’s milk, is probably the best known. Caprino Romano is a very sharp goat’s milk version, and vacchino Romano is a mild version made from cow’s milk.

Very Hard Cheeses

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