Cheese comes in numerous varieties of different styles, flavour, and texture. Picture: Valentyn
Cheese comes in numerous varieties of different styles, flavour, and texture. Picture: Valentyn

A connoisseur's guide to different cheese types

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Mar 3, 2020

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Cheese comes in numerous varieties of different styles, flavour, and texture but it is all made from the same basic ingredient which is milk. So what are the differences and what can be made with each? 

We spoke to renowned cheese expert Kobus Mulder who outlined the differences. 

Mulder said that cheese was originally made 5 000 years BC when families had too much milk to consume fresh, therefore it was made to extend the shelf life of milk. 

He said there are only two reasons why cheese is eaten, firstly, that firstly it is a nutritional food which is high in protein minerals, vitamins and also fat to give the body energy, and that secondly, it is eaten because it is tasty and delicious food. 

“There are only two ways of how cheese is eaten. Firstly, as eating cheese which means a few cheese types are placed on a board and eaten with accompaniments such as biscuits, certain vegetables, and fruits. 

Eating cheese is consumed in this way. Secondly, it is eaten as an ingredient in food recipes, for example, pasta dishes, certain desserts, vegetable bakes, and souffles. Cheese is also used as an ingredient in recipe dishes to give texture and flavour to dishes. 

Below are the different types of cheese.

Cottage cheese. Picture: Supplied

Fresh cheeses 

The texture of these cheeses is soft, dense, compact to slightly chalky. The flavour is mild, delicate and creamy. They can be eaten as an eating cheese but mostly used as an ingredient. 

Examples: Mascarpone, fromage blanc, chevre and cottage cheese.

Ricotta. Picture: Supplied

Whey cheese

This type of cheese is not made from milk but from the whey which is the watery liquid obtained during cheese making. Whey is rich in all the components found in milk especially protein and minerals. The texture is moist and a little grainy. It is not eating cheese but used as an ingredient in folded pasta and tarts and cakes.

Example: Ricotta

Mozzarella cheese: Picture: Joe Greene

Pasta filata cheeses

The curd of these cheeses is placed in very hot water and then stretched to give the cheese texture a boiled chicken breast texture. The stretching of the curd also allows the cheese to have a perfect melt and browning. 

The texture is soft to firm with a boiled chicken breast appearance and the flavour is very mild with very slight acidity and saltiness. It can be used on pizzas where it lends texture to the dish.

Examples: Mozzarella, for de latte and Provolone.

Camembert cheese. Picture: Supplied

Soft cheeses

The texture of this type of cheese is soft to runny with small holes. Its flavour is mild for up to three weeks, thereafter it becomes rich and flavorful. It is essentially an eating cheese as it will melt completely if used as an ingredient in a dish. 

Examples: Brie and camembert. 

Limburger cheese. Picture: Supplied

Semi-soft cheeses

The texture of this cheese is very pliable and elastic with small holes. Its flavour varies from mild to smelly in the case of Limburger. These are eating cheeses as the higher moisture content makes the cheese melt to a very thin substance when heated. 

Examples: Havarti, Fontina, and Limburger.

Gouda cheese. Picture: Joe Greene

Semi-hard cheeses

This is a versatile category as the cheeses can be an eating and ingredient cheese. It can be sliced, grated and gives texture and flavour when used in dishes. 

It cannot be used on pizza as these will flow too much and will burn black on a pizza. The texture is quite firm but still pliable with typical “eyes” and has a rich, creamy and pleasant appetizing flavour. 

Examples: Gouda, Edam and Emmentaler. 

Cheddar cheese. Picture: Supplied

Hard cheeses

As with semi-hard cheeses, hard cheeses are versatile and can be an eating or ingredient cheese. If one looks at the available cheeses in a supermarket, it is clear that semi-hard and hard cheeses cover most of the shelves and that is due to their versatility. 

The texture is quite firm and dense with no holes or openings. It breaks easily if a portion is bent. It is savoury and often reminds of hazelnuts.

Examples: Cheddar, Pecorino, and Manchego

Pecorino Romano. Picture: Supplied

Extra hard cheeses

A small category of cheeses due to the extra-long ripening time which few cheeseries can afford as it affects cash flow and therefore must sell at a high price. Texture very firm and brittle with now eyes or holes.  

Small crystals of tyrosine amino acid are found in the texture. Flavour is rich and savoury with complex tones of nuts and caramel. 

Although it can be eaten in small portions as an eating cheese it is primarily an ingredient cheese for pasta dishes and baked foods which require savoury rich flavour like parmesan chicken with Caesar roasted Romaine.

Examples: Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano. 

Gorgonzola cheese. Picture: Supplied

Blue cheeses

The blue mould used in blue cheeses is called Penicillium roqueforti and must not be confused with penicillin which is a group of antibiotics whereas Penicillium roqueforti is a common edible fungus. The texture varies from semi-soft in the case of Gorgonzola to the firm in the case of Stilton. 

Flavour is peppery and salty with the unique blue fungus taste. The flavour is stronger in cheeses with more mould inside the cheese. It is essentially an eating cheese but can be used in blue cheese sauces, because it melts easily, and as an ingredient in salads.

Examples: Gorgonzola, Stilton, Roquefort, and Danish Blue. 

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