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From Aged to Artisan: The Many Varieties of Cheese

November 16, 2016 BY Dax

Next up in our Trending Flavors series is cheese. Today where the hottest culinary trends or the newest ingredients grab the headlines, the base cheese varietals can be easily overlooked. With so many incredible new ingredients and recent acceptance of ethnic culinary trends now available to chefs, we sometimes forget the true enticement and comfort power the main varietals of cheese have with our customers.

The popularity and star power of cheese on a menu has quietly but steadily grown over the years, and as American consumption continues to increase year-over-year it is a category that should not be taken for granted. When paired with exotic ingredients or used in ethnic dishes, the basic cheese varietal acts as a safe exploration bridge, helping to combine the known and trusted with the world of new flavors.

Base cheese varietals can also be used in a supporting role and elevate a dish to a premium status. With so many categories and sub categories inside the broader cheese genus, the base varietal cheeses are truly a versatile category ripe for exploration.

TOP TEN CHEESE VARIETALS IN RESTAURANTS

Top Ten Cheese Varietals

US Cheese Consumption

Per Capita Cheese Consumption, 1989 – 2014

cheese_table2

US Cheese Production by variety

Cheese Production Chart


Feta

Feta

CATEGORY: Soft, brined

MILK SOURCE: Goat and sheep, or cow

VARIETAL NATIONAL ORIGIN: Greece

FLAVOR: Heavy brined flavor, very salty with tangy profile.

COMMON PAIRINGS: Pairs well with lighter beers, sauvignon blanc, and pinot noir, olive oil, Greek cuisine, spinach, olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers profile.

INFORMATION: The world’s most identifiable Greek cheese.


Gouda

SMOKED GOUDA

CATEGORY: Semi firm

MILK SOURCE: Cow

VARIETAL NATIONAL ORIGIN: Netherlands

FLAVOR: Rich dairy flavor with smokey notes.

COMMON PAIRINGS: Brown ales, stouts, and salty snacks.

INFORMATION: Its historical roots trace back to the Netherlands where it is named after the city from which it originated.


Mozzarella

MOZZARELLA

CATEGORY: Semi soft

MILK SOURCE: Cow is the primary source in the U.S., but traditionally it was made using water bu alo milk, and any milk may be used and still use the name.

VARIETAL NATIONAL ORIGIN: Italy

FLAVOR: Mild with heavy milky / dairy notes.

COMMON PAIRINGS: Basil, garlic, tomatoes, light red wines, pasta dishes, cured meats, and Italian cuisine.

INFORMATION: The most common Italian cheese worldwide today.


Bleu

BLEU

CATEGORY: Blue veined

MILK SOURCE: Pasteurized or unpasteurized cow, goat or sheep milk

VARIETAL NATIONAL ORIGIN: Gorgonzola: Italy, Stilton: England, Maytag: United States, Roqufort: France.

FLAVOR: Salty, sharp and with distinctive tang from the bleu veins.

COMMON PAIRINGS: Bold red wines, nuts, fruits in general (particularly red grapes and apples), jams, bacon, and figs.

INFORMATION: Bleu cheeses are ripened with cultures of the mold Penicillium.


Cheddar

CHEDDAR WHITE/YELLOW

CATEGORY: Hard, natural cheese

MILK SOURCE: Cow

VARIETAL NATIONAL ORIGIN: England

FLAVOR: Rich and creamy, can vary from mild to sharp.

COMMON PAIRINGS: Classic pairings include apples, pretzels, ales, mustard, smoked meats, honey, maple, and horseradish.

INFORMATION: It is the most popular and produced cheese in the world.


Swiss

SWISS (EMMENTAL)

CATEGORY: Hard, Semi firm

MILK SOURCE: Cow

VARIETAL NATIONAL ORIGIN: Switzerland (Emmental), but the “Swiss” cheese we are familiar with was developed in the United States.

FLAVOR: Nutty with a slight sweet and salty flavor.

COMMON PAIRINGS: Fruit, in particular apples, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and salty cured meats such as ham.

INFORMATION: The distinctive holes are formed from trapped gas released by bacteria during the cheese making process.


Parmesan

PARMESAN

CATEGORY: Hard

MILK SOURCE: Unpasteurized cow milk

VARIETAL NATIONAL ORIGIN: Italy

FLAVOR: Nutty profile with sharp savory notes.

COMMON PAIRINGS: Italian cured meats, Italian red wines, prosecco, grilled vegetables, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, honey, and fennel.

INFORMATION: Considered to be the King of Italian cheeses.


Asiago

asiago

CATEGORY: Hard

MILK SOURCE: Cow

VARIETAL NATIONAL ORIGIN: Italy

FLAVOR: Full, strong nutty flavor.

COMMON PAIRINGS: Figs, fruity white wines, spiced nuts.

INFORMATION: It was traditionally made with goat’s milk, but has since changed to cow’s milk.


Conclusion

With a nearly 40 percent increase per capita over 25 years it is clear that cheese has not only stood the test of time, but also gained an almost star-like quality. With such a widespread comfort factor that shows no signs of slowing down anytime in the foreseeable future, cheese may be the ultimate safe bridge for American consumers wanting to explore new recipes while still having a safety net. With its amazing savory notes, cheese can also play a supporting role or act in a flavor-building role adding depth to dishes, product lines, or menus. Even though it has been around for centuries, cheese is still as relevant as ever, and an ingredient that resonates with today’s consumers.

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